Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Food Pantry"

Shake Up at Food Pantry

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web Lilian Woudsma

Every Tuesday, the Sag Harbor Community Food Pantry (SHCFP) is teeming with sights, sounds, and of course, tastes. The basement kitchen in the Old Whaler’s Church is overflowing with boxes of fresh produce, eggs and meat. The tables in the general meeting area are lined with colorful bouquets of flowers and basic toiletries. And nearly 40 volunteers are milling around helping those in need of the Pantry’s help.Orchestrating every movement in this finely tuned operation is SHCFP executive director Lillian Woudsma.

From greeting the needy to finagling the best price for turkey from a wholesaler, Woudsma injected new vigor into the organization over the course of her tenure at SHCFP. After five years of leading the not-for-profit organization, Woudsma resigned from her position last Tuesday.

Under Woudsma’s management, the Pantry transformed from a modest-sized emergency based pantry into an enterprise rivaling those found in major cities.Woudsma championed the “Fresh is Better” program to provide raw fruits and vegetables, among other food items, as opposed to strictly canned goods. When theSHCFP first started in the late 1980s less than a dozen residents took advantage of the program, said a recent press statement released by theSHCFP Board of Directors. Over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, the Pantry fed over 300 people or roughly 80 families.

Woudsma was as well known in the kitchen as she was outside of it. She was a tenacious fundraiser. Woudsma could often be seen in the pages of local publications or heard on WLNG and WLIU radio stations promoting the work of SHCFP and lobbying for donations. Over the holidays Woudsma set up “Giving Trees,” artificial Christmas trees, at various local establishments to allow people to gift a toy or money. Woudsma organized the popular “Kitchen Tours” event featuring six notable village kitchens.

For Woudsma, the SHCFP was a perfect marriage of her professional background and desire to help the less fortunate. She had previously worked in the in catering and the restaurant business. Through her experience in the food industry,Woudsma was at ease making connections with local purveyors. These relationships benefited SHCFP through donations or reduced prices. She also had a knack for organizing the kitchen and keeping her eye on presentation. When she first took over the day-to-day-operations of the Pantry, she enlisted Pierson art teacher PeterSolow to craft an SHCFP logo and printed it on shirts and aprons for the volunteers. Woudsma upgraded the kitchen facilities as well to include a new refrigerator and freezer, which greatly increased the Pantry’s ability to accept more donations.

Woudsma received several accolades for her work. Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman selected Woudsma as a “Woman of Distinction” in the community.

“This is my baby,” said Woudsma of the Pantry during an interview.

An apparent discord between herself and the board of directors seems to have influenced Woudsma’s decision to part ways with SHCFP. In a letter she sent to the board, Woudsma claims she was voted off the board during the November 10 meeting. Woudsma said the president of the board Nathan Brown explained that other executive directors on local not-for-profit organizations, like the John Jermain Memorial Library or the Whaling Museum, are excluded from serving on the board. However, the directors at these organizations are paid a salary for their work, whereasWoudsma volunteered for the SHCFP. Fearing she would lose a voice in the operations and programs of the organization, Woudsma opted to resign.

“I need to go where I feel I am making a positive affect and feel good about what I am doing,” noted Woudsma in the letter. She added that she would return to SHCFP if the executive director was a voting member on the board, “as it was since inception of our corporations,” added Woudsma in the letter. Woudsma was integral in attaining 501 (C)(3) not-for-profit status.

Brown became the board president a few months ago and said he was tasked with reviewing the state by-laws for running a not-for-profit.

“[When first elected to the board,] I had a problem with some of the ways the board was functioning in following the laws. It wasn’t anything personal. I wasn’t trying to change anything that she was doing. She was the face of the food pantry and everyone knew that. She was voted off the board based on her being the executive director. Welistened to all the board members and they voted,” remarked Brown. “Everybody on the board without exception has a great deal of respect for Lillian.”

In the release distributed by the board, Brown added that “It will be difficult to find an accomplished replacement.”

Brown said the board has a few community members in mind to take over the executive director position, though they haven’t formally interviewed anyone.

True to her determined demeanor, Woudsma expects to move on and start volunteering at the East Hampton Food Pantry. Despite the resignation, Woudsma remains steadfast in continuing to help feed the less fortunate members of the community.

One Step Closer Towards Havens Beach Remediation

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The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees is one step closer to identifying why bacterial levels have exceeded county health standards for swimming at the village’s lone bathing beach, Havens Beach.

On Tuesday, August 11 the board approved additional water tests at the beach aimed at giving the village definitive knowledge not only on what bacteria may exist in a stormwater runoff drainage ditch and adjacent beach, but where that bacteria is coming from. Theories on the source of contamination have ranged from the effect of an improperly filtered runoff, to sewage from boats illegally dumping offshore or animals waste.

Water quality at Havens Beach has been an ongoing debate over the last decade. In the last three years, Peconic Baykeeper Kevin MacAllister has raised the issue as a critical problem for village officials to address. At the same time, Suffolk County, which tests the water at Havens weekly as part of its health department’s monitoring of all bathing beaches in the county, showed just a couple of days annually where water quality at Havens Beach exceeded appropriate standards for swimming.

Eventually the Baykeeper and village officials seemed to reach an agreement, with the Baykeeper engaging the services of Chris Gobler, a Stony Brook Southampton associate professor and the director of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Program, to conduct a year of testing at Havens Beach. However, after a year of testing — and even a poster that alleged water quality at Havens Beach was poor —neither the Baykeeper nor Gobler have offered any testing results to the village, according to officials, leaving the village with no recourse but to begin a new round immediately.

According to Sag Harbor Village Environmental Planning Consultant Rich Warren, the village has secured Cornell Cooperative Extension to aid them in this project. Cornell’s Emerson Hasbrouck has agreed to use the extension’s source library – a database of bacterial sources – to help village officials identify the source of any contamination.

“We want to do duplicate sampling,” explained Warren on Tuesday. He said the key would be to broker a deal with the county where they take two samples at the same time during their weekly tests, and send the additional bottle of water to Hasbrouk. This, said Warren, would ensure everything aspect of the water collected was uniform, but would allow the village an independent lab to not only conduct testing, but identify where, if any, contaminants were coming from.

“We are taking the bull by the horns,” said Warren. “It will be interesting to see what shows up.”

A number of residents of the Azurest, Sag Harbor Hills and Ninevah neighborhoods attended Tuesday’s meeting in hopes of learning whether water quality at their bathing beaches was effected by the drain at Havens Beach. At a village meeting, convened a year and a half ago, the Baykeeper and village officials discussed the possibility of moving some of the testing into bathing beaches in front of those neighborhoods as well.

Laurie Gibbs told the board she was concerned about the water and wondered how widely disseminated any bacteria may be from Havens Beach.

“There was no plume,” cautioned trustee Tim Culver.

Gibbs quizzed the board on what action plan they had in mind for remediation.

Trustee Tiffany Scarlato explained the first step would be to identify the cause and without that the board could not move forward.

Azurest Property Homeowners Association President Anita Rainford explained the three communities had expected testing would have been expanded into their waters, hence the disconnect.

“Since then we haven’t heard anything, seen anything,” said Rainford.

“We have not gotten it either,” said Scarlato of the testing completed by Stony Brook Southampton representatives. “Some testing was done. We don’t know how it was done, we don’t have the data.” Scarlato added Stony Brook representatives seemed reluctant to present any findings to the village.

“We have been relying on the Suffolk County Health Department,” she explained.

According to village officials, they hope the testing and identification at Havens Beach is completed in the fall.

Sag Harbor Food Pantry Music Fest

The Sag Harbor Food Pantry was approved for a Music Fest at the Sag Harbor Historical and Whaling Museum, although trustee Scarlato and Mayor Brian Gilbride cautioned the Whaling Museum that they would only be allowed so many events each year per the village code’s rules on mass gatherings which limit the museum to six. In addition to the Sag Harbor Food Pantry Music Fest, scheduled for Sunday, September 13 from 6 to 9 p.m., the museum has scheduled a wedding and their annual clambake the same weekend.

“We are off to the races,” said Scarlato, noting the village should inform the museum of the code’s limitations on mass gatherings.

Lillian Woudsma

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The Director of the Sag Harbor Food Pantry, a not-for-profit dedicated to feeding those in the village in need of a helping hand, who talks about the rising number of families she sees on a weekly basis in the wake of the economic downturn and how the Sag Harbor community has stepped up its donations ensuring 75 families will have a Thanksgiving feast to remember.

The Sag Harbor Food Pantry was facing a slight crisis, as some of the larger blocks of Thanksgiving donations dried up this year. Was the pantry’s call for help heard this Thanksgiving season?

I am telling you this community has been so good to us. It has really been fabulous. When we found out King Kullen was not giving out the coupons [for a free turkey with a $50 purchase], everyone became very worried. But we have had enough donations to see us through. I have to tell you, there is a lot of energy sustaining this food pantry. I have a lot of worker bees all over the place. I made a plea on WLNG, I wrote a letter to Bryan [Boyhan, editor and publisher of The Sag Harbor Express], I went on WLIU and talked to anyone who would listen, and you know what, we had 60 turkeys donated.

It really has been a community effort. The Ross School wanted to know what they could do, and decided to hold a food drive. East Hampton Elementary students offered us canned goods, and then I suggested they encourage the kids take a look at our local farmstands. My whole premise, and obviously we take everything that is offered to us and are very grateful, is to try and serve fresh foods and vegetables rather than the canned goods. So thanks to those students we have a whole pantry filled with cauliflower, brussel sprouts, potatoes – you name it. I have had people calling all weekend long, asking if they can donate money, or donate a turkey, which is great because if we collect more than we need we can use it at Christmas, which is just around the corner. The [Saint Andrew’s Church] youth group made 65 pies for us this year, which we will be giving out [on Tuesday, November 25]. I still have to put my vegetable order in with Schmidt’s in Southampton. They are very generous. So we are in good shape for Thanksgiving.

What will families’ be treated to this year for their Thanksgiving feast?

They will be bringing home a whole turkey or chicken, or a whole cooked turkey breast for those with very small families, some who don’t have an oven. We will also be giving out sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, stuffing, broccoli, green beans, assorted breads – all donated by the community – and hopefully some mixed nuts, as well as tangerines, oranges, apples, grapes, bananas and cider. That is besides the usual milk and eggs and cheese that we provide.

If I had the resources, for the holidays, I would buy each one a bottle of wine. Next year, maybe I will reach out to some of the local vineyards.

Have you seen an increase in need since the economic downturn took effect? Are there more people reaching out to the food pantry as a resource?

Oh my God. It has been unbelievable. We are now serving up to 75 families a week, and signing up a lot of new faces. We are also seeing a lot of older people who have lived in Sag Harbor for generations, and their children, come in to see us. It’s sad, but we try and make them feel good. We really feel like a family here. We help them, they help and thanks us in their way. We serve a lot of very nice people.

Normally, around this time of year we are serving 45 to 50 families – so 75 is a very big jump.

Do you expect the upward trend in food pantry recipients will continue to increase throughout this year?

I think it is going to get worse, which is why I personally try and work very hard to keep bringing money in so we can keep this program going, and I don’t have to resort to handing out canned goods like a lot of other organizations have to. We take every single donation we get, but I don’t count on them. I have to be prepared, which is why we have different programs throughout the year.

We are getting ready to start our Christmas Giving Tree program, which should start right after Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. It is one of the only American holidays with a true focus on family and food – it’s all about the harvest. So I like to give it its full due. We will get those Christmas Giving Trees out soon enough.

How long have you been with the food pantry as a director?

Four years this month I took over, and I can barely believe it. Now we have a board of directors, offices, we are a registered not-for-profit, we have a treasurer who likes to throw a fit if I want to buy something fancy for the pantry. It’s great.

What kind of fresh foods will you look to serve during the Christmas season?

What we will do this year is fresh hams, large chickens if people want them and some kind of roast. That is at least what we would like to do. And then we will offer chestnuts, potatoes, a variety of fresh veggies and hopefully some holiday cakes. And then of course we have Santa, who will visit with all our children and give them a toy. We’ll take a picture and Phil [Bucking] at The Sag Harbor Garden Center is wonderful – he helps us out by giving us little poinsettias for each family. We really have such a caring community – we’re lucky. 

You have been able to sustain a healthy group of volunteers. What’s the secret?

It’s a happy place. We have everything from Mozart to rock and roll playing, form Frank Sinatra to mariachi bands. The Ross School donates some wonderful soups to us regularly, and I have enough volunteers where they set up a whole station so people can come in for a little soup, a little sandwich. We are a very congenial group of people. We socialize together, we work together and we have a great energy about us. It’s a well oiled machine and no one steps on each other’s toes.

When I started we have two or three people volunteering and now we have 25. I am not exaggerating when I say we have a beautiful thing going on. We get along socially and we all know we are doing a good thing.