TICONDEROGA - The Ticonderoga Food Pantry is changing.
"When I started working here we served mostly unemployed people," said Emma Williams, who has volunteered 16 years at the pantry. "Now it's a lot of working families who just can't make ends meet."
Margaret Beuerlein, pantry director, agrees.
"When gas prices starting getting near $4 (a gallon) a few years ago we started seeing a lot of new people," she said. "We used to get 35-40 people a month. That's more than doubled."
The Ticonderoga Food Pantry now serves 85-100 families a month.
"That's families," John Williams, a pantry volunteer, pointed out. "We're feeding a lot of people."
Located in the basement of the First United Methodist Church at 1045 Wicker St., the pantry is sponsored by the Ticonderoga Area Clergy Association. It's a non-denominational service open 11 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The pantry is open to Ticonderoga and Putnam residents and follows federal income guidelines. Those guidelines start at $20,000 a year for a single person and go up to $68,000 for a family of eight. All food pantry information is strictly confidential.
People can come to the pantry once a month to get three days - nine meals - food.
Besides helping feed families, the pantry responds to local emergencies such as fires and floods.
The Ti Food Pantry has a wide range of foods, including infant formula and baby food. It also offers personal hygiene items such as soap and laundry detergent.
"Our goal is to meet the needs of the people who use the pantry," Beuerlein said. "We don't have any junk food, no soda or chips. We offer nutritious foods for families."
This summer the pantry has been able to supply families with fresh vegetables donated by local gardeners.
The Ti pantry is supported by community efforts and operated by a group of about 25 volunteers. A member of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, the local pantry depends on local food drives and donations.
The Ticonderoga Food Pantry will hold its annual pancake supper buffet Friday, Oct. 15, 4:30-7 p.m. at the Ticonderoga Elks Club. Donations are appreciated.
The all-you-can-eat menu includes pancakes, french toast, sausage gravy and biscuits, bacon, sausage, hash, juice and desserts. It is one of the pantry's largest fundraising events of the year.
Also helping stock the pantry are food drives each year by local civic, youth, school and church groups. The annual Canadian Pacific Holiday Train also raised money and collects food donations for the pantry.
"We have tremendous community support," Beuerlein said. "Everything is greatly appreciated."
To stretch the budget, pantry volunteers, led by Teresa Pearson, clip coupons and constantly look for grocery specials.
"We clip coupons by the bushel," Pearson said. "It really saves a lot."
Although the Ti pantry is open to the public just three hours a week, Beuerlein estimates volunteers work about 2,000 hours annually. They normally start work at 7 a.m. organizing and stocking shelves to be ready to open at 11 a.m. They also travel to Schroon Lake to pick up deliveries by the regional food bank and to shop in the Glens Falls area.
"I'm retired, but I work harder now than I ever have," Pearson said.
Beuerlein appreciates he workers, many who come from the Essex County Retired Volunteer Senior Program.
"They're all good workers; very dedicated volunteers," she said. "Nobody gets paid, but I think they feel good about the work and the service the pantry provides."
Beuerlein hopes all eligible people take advantage of the services offered by the food pantry.
"We're here to help people," she said.
John Williams agreed. He expressed concern some local senior citizens could benefit from the pantry and don't.
"For years older people wouldn't come to the pantry," he said. "They were too proud. This isn't about pride, it's about helping out people in need. We're making in roads with seniors.
"We don't turn people away," Williams stressed.
Moriah and Schroon Lake also have food pantries that are part of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. Beuerlein noted the three pantries often work with each other when facing shortages.