Greater Sayville Food pantry concerned about their future
Greater Sayville Food Pantry coordinator Charlene Lehmann (center) and volunteers Maureen Casaburi and Dorothy Sabatino sit surrounded by donations.

SCN/Fuentes

Greater Sayville Food pantry concerned about their future

Story By: NICOLE FUENTES
11/27/2019


The Greater Sayville Food Pantry is currently celebrating a successful Thanksgiving drive and will be gearing up for more holiday donations in the coming weeks. But once the holidays have come and gone, donations become ever more important. 

Sayville Food Pantry’s concerns for 2020

Staying put

Currently, the Town of Islip is working on preliminary (much-needed) plans for renovating the Gillette House, where the pantry has operated for the last 29 years. According to pantry coordinator Charlene Lehmann, the Gillette House is in desperate need of repairs after a pipe burst about two winters ago, leaving the building temporarily without heat, plus other issues like peeling paint.

“It is a real mess,” she said, happy to see it repaired, but fearful for what that means for the pantry.

The plan, according to a town spokesperson, could not be discussed due to the premature nature of the project due for 2020-’21, though it was confirmed that the project would include some sort of Designer Showcase.

A spokesperson for the Parks Department who meets with the Designer Showcase committee said that any discussions thus far have taken into account that Bay Area Friends of the Fine Arts and the food pantry utilize the building on a regular basis, and at this point they don’t anticipate the need for them to move out during renovations. Lehmann and other volunteers have also been invited to a meeting next month.

Still, pantry volunteers fear the possibility of a last-minute move. Lehmann explained that those who run the pantry are all volunteers, some older, without the ability to lift heavy freezers and facilitate a move.

Then, she said, another big question arises: where would the pantry go, indefinitely or even just during the renovations? Most of the clients, she said, come via bus and many walk.

“It would be a very difficult move, physically, for us and also for our clients,” she said. “We just really hope that we don’t have to move,” she added, noting that if they had to temporarily move for renovations, she hopes the town would help facilitate the move—worst-case scenario.

Lastly, the building, owned by the town, is rent free for the pantry and there isn’t any money in the budget to pay rent for a space, Lehmann explained, even temporarily. 

 

Maintaining a steady inflow of donations

Thankfully, Lehmann explained, due to the help of residents, local groups like the Girl and Boy Scout troops, the school district, churches, civic, chamber and temple, the pantry always seems to be full. However, summer months are a bit lighter when school is no longer in session and the Boy and Girl Scouts no longer convene, she said. Still, throughout the year, the pantry serves about 200 families from nearby South Shore areas, including Sayville, West Sayville, Bayport, Oakdale, Bohemia and Blue Point.

 

Helping the growing working poor

“Another concern,” Lehmann added, “is how we are going to help the working poor climb out of debt.” That problem, she explained, can only be solved with monetary donations. The pantry also helps with items beyond food, like baby car seats and school supplies. n