MOOERS - In the basement of the Mooers Wesleyan Church, the Mooers Food Pantry has shelves upon shelves of food. With so much food, it may seem the food pantry could never use it all, but helping eight communities in the Northern Tier requires volunteers to restock the shelves weekly.
More than 10 years ago, John Gillette, pastor of the Mooers Wesleyan Church, was informed the local food shelf was no longer in existence. So, he took it upon himself to begin one at his church.
"Our youth group went out, the Boy Scouts came and they started collecting food on a very small scale," explained Gillette. "Then, as the program continued to grow, I recognized I couldn't do it myself and Wendell and Diane [Brooks] took over. They're the ones that keep the program moving and running smoothly."
The Brookses began volunteering with the Mooers Food Pantry in 2002, following retirement and their move from Ellenburg to Mooers in 2000.
"We had a lot of time on our hands," explained Diane Brooks.
She saw the importance of helping others including children and seniors citizens who often come to the food pantry.
"We had a 92-year-old lady come in here last year and she said, 'I've lived in the same home all my life and I've never had to ask for help,'" she recalled. "She said, 'I either had to have money for food or leave my home,' and she apologized and I said, 'Lady, just come with me.' That's what we're here for."
The Mooers Food Pantry has grown to help people in Rouses Point, Champlain, Chazy, West Chazy, Altona, Ellenburg, Mooers, and Mooers Forks, seeing 16-17 families per week. It is a project of the community, said Gillette, not just the church.
In order to receive food from the food pantry, families have to register, and are only allowed to come once every other month. They must also bring proof of residency, which can be in the form of a bill, for example.
The food handed out to needy families comes from the help of the Regional Food Bank in Latham, which the Mooers Food Pantry became a part of a year ago.
"It's a lot of paperwork and two or three times we tried and gave up," Diane Brooks explained of joining the Regional Food Bank.
However, with the help of her daughter-in-law, Juanita Brooks, who heads another food shelf in New York, they eventually became certified.
"Even though they have a lot of rules and regulations we have to follow ... the good points outweigh the bad," she said. "We couldn't keep going on donations."
The Mooers Food Pantry receives $3,200 every year in grant money from the Regional Food Bank, to help purchase food, which can come from salvage, donation, co-op, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
However, despite help from the food bank, the Mooers Food Pantry can always receive help from the community.
"I can't think of anything that we're oversupplied in," Diane Brooks said.
If interested in donating food or money to the food pantry, contributions may be sent to P.O. Box 221, Mooers N.Y. 12958, in care of Pastor John Gillette, Food Shelf.