By Daniel Meyer

The holiday season is here and for those who are less fortunate for any reason, a small but extremely dedicated team of volunteers is making an effort to help provide comfort and hope to people who need just a little something extra not only during the holidays, but throughout the year.

The Ellicottville Food Pantry helps hundreds in the region using an informal “neighbors helping neighbors” concept of providing supplemental food products to families in need.

“We do this because we enjoy helping others,” said Nancy Rogan, one of the volunteers who regularly donates her time to assist clients who visit the food pantry. “Every family that we interact with are valued humans. We think it is important to establish relationships with them, get to know who they are and truly understand what they are dealing with on a daily basis. I personally get great satisfaction out of meeting each client and look forward to seeing them and furthering my friendships with each one of them.”

The support of the community has helped the Ellicottville Food Pantry expand and improve so that they can continue to serve more families in Ellicottville, as well as in nearby East Otto, Little Valley, Mansfield and Great Valley. Money raised from recent fundraisers, combined with donations made from individuals and local civic organizations, allowed the volunteers to purchase a new refrigerator, a new freezer, new shelving, a push cart and other items that help to improve the food pantry’s ability to service as many people as possible.

Led by Shelly Kibby, the food pantry’s volunteer director who spearheaded those recent efforts to upgrade the pantry, the devoted team of volunteers enjoy their work.

“It’s just fun,” said Rogan. “It really is. You get to spend time with other people who want to help someone who may receive help from public assistance programs, but what we have found is sometimes that assistance is just not enough, especially for the very large families. That little extra that we provide can go a long way in providing healthy food products to people who otherwise may not be able to afford them.”

The Ellicottville Food Pantry provides fresh fruit and vegetables, various meat products and canned and boxed foods. In addition, small personal items, such as toothbrushes, toilet paper, shampoo and soap are also made available to those who may need them.

Despite dealing with some personal health issues in recent months, the volunteers rally around Kibby, who also processes paperwork for people who visit the food pantry, including applications for public assistance and any other type of documents that visitors may need to have located online and printed for future reference.

“The food pantry has grown so much because of Shelly’s leadership and her incredible dedication to our clients,” said Rogan. “She has a special way about her in that she has never made a client feel like they are a burden or a bother. Instead, she embraces them and makes them feel special.”

It is the people of Ellicottville, including some key stakeholders in the community, who have helped to make the food pantry the success it is today. In addition to making monetary donations and helping to host fundraisers, some residents volunteer when they can to pick up large quantities of food from another location, help unload trucks, assist clients in placing their food items in their vehicle.

“We have people who are here all the time and then we have people who can only make it once in awhile, but whoever does show up is willing to work and try and make the day a little bit better for the clients we serve,” said Rogan. “That goes a long way. It’s why Ellicottville is such a special place.”

A food drive will be included as part of this year’s Bob McCarthy Irish Christmas event, scheduled to take place on Friday, Dec. 2 at Ellicottville Brewing Company. More information about that event and the Ellicottville Food Pantry’s connection to the annual celebration can be found by calling Kibby at (585) 387-4807.

The Ellicottville Food Pantry is operated through Cattaraugus Community Action, Inc. and is based at 53 Elizabeth Street on the grounds of the United Church of Ellicottville. Monetary donations are now being accepted for the holidays as well as throughout the year. Donations can be mailed to the Ellicottville Food Pantry, c/o United Church of Ellicottville, 53 Elizabeth Street, Ellicottville, NY 14731.

In addition, volunteers are always needed to lend a hand at the food pantry, especially during the winter months. For more information, call Kibby at the number above or call the United Church of Ellicottville at (716) 699-4003.