By Jann Wiswall

The United Church of Ellicottville Community Food Pantry recently received a grant of $2,000 from the Borgenicht Family Foundation to purchase two laptops and set up a wireless hotspot for the pantry’s clients, volunteer staff and the general public. The grant also will help get information out to potential food bank clients, volunteers and donors.

“This grant supports our activities in so many ways,” said Food Pantry Administrator Annie Widger.

First, the pantry will be able to offer computer and Internet access to clients who do not have such service at home. It also enables food pantry volunteers to order food, update the database and manage information while they are at the location itself, and enhances the staff’s ability to educate clients about making healthy food choices. Additionally, it gives the entire community a place to gather, bring their own laptops and work at their leisure in a welcoming environment.

The Ellicottville Food Pantry, which is housed in the United Church of Ellicottville, is a great example of communities helping its neediest residents, said Widger. Some 40 area families who meet the state’s income eligibility requirements rely on monthly boxes of shelf-stable foods. Each box represents nine meals per family, or a three-day emergency supply. Most foods are purchased by the pantry from the Western New York Food Bank in Buffalo, but the Ellicottville community also collects hundreds of thousands of pounds of nonperishable food, paper products, diapers, etc., through independent collection drives every year.

“We couldn’t do this without the incredible support of our neighbors,” said Widger.

For example, she points to efforts such as the Holiday Valley Ski Patrol food drive over Mardi Gras weekend, the food drives held several times a year by the Holy Name of Mary Roman Catholic Church, the dental hygienists who donate toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss and other dental health products, and the efforts made by Ellicottville resident Bob McCarthy and others to build awareness of the food pantry. Most recently, the Ellicottville Quilt Shop began a promotion that gives customers discounts on their purchases if they bring in canned goods.

“All of these and so many other efforts, including monetary donations, are critical to our ability to serve our community,” she said.

Now that spring is near, the food pantry also is readying its own vegetable garden, which was Widger’s brainchild last year.

“People love the fresh-picked produce during the summer months,” she said, and added that she hopes to involve the church’s Sunday school classes in gardening this year.

To make a donation, please call the United Church of Ellicottville Community Food Pantry at (716) 699-4004, mail a check to P.O. Box 417, Ellicottville, N.Y. 14731, or drop off food and paper product donations at the church at 53 Elizabeth Street.

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