By Danielle Ray, Senior Reporter

Heritage Bible Chapel recently conducted a successful food drive to benefit Wachusett Food Pantry in Sterling. Church member Cindy Philbrick, a Sterling resident, spearheaded the well-organized effort. 

“We have a very giving community in our church, and we have a really big congregation,” she said. “I thought, if we do outreach, I am sure we will get a bunch of donations.”

Philbrick spoke with church leaders and then started looking into where the need is in the local community.

“I made one phone call to the Wachusett Food Pantry, and (longtime pantry volunteer and board member) Pam Guild said we would love the help,” Philbrick said. “We try to help in the Wachusett community so this worked out great.”

Philbrick and other members of her Bible study group put together a flier, sent out an email to church members, and collected for two weeks. Sure enough, Philbrick was right – dozens of church members stepped up and donated canned goods, cereal, soups, dry goods, paper towels, toilet paper, and more.  

“We had people who had toiletries to give, and some went to the Dollar Tree and bought stuff,” she said. “It is really nice when you do a food drive because then people can donate what they can, whatever you can give. And each of those people who donated got that warm and fuzzy feeling.”

They delivered the haul to the food pantry on March 12, which included items collected at Life Care Center of Leominster where Philbrick’s daughter-in-law works, and on March 20 Philbrick and five members of her Bible study group volunteered at the pantry. 

“Our Bible study group spends some time doing volunteer work twice a year,” Philbrick said. “This was a really good fit, we all enjoyed it.”

Philbrick said they were “amazed” by the large number of volunteers at the food pantry who help to facilitate what Guild calls “a well-oiled machine.”

“It was really touching,” Philbrick said. “It felt very rewarding to be able to help other people who are not so fortunate. You take for granted the ability to go to the grocery store and buy what you need.”

Philbrick said the group wore t-shirts that were given out to all the church members, hundreds of them, that say ‘Love God and Love People’, and went to lunch together at Meadowbrook Orchards in Sterling after volunteering at the pantry. 

“It really gets you in front of the need,” Philbrick said of lending a hand at the pantry. “You see all these volunteers giving of themselves, it was amazing. Everyone felt great about giving back to the community.”

Wachusett Food Pantry is a free-of-charge, emergency, monthly food program offering three to five days of meals to any family in Holden, Paxton, Princeton, Rutland, and Sterling with either a short-term or long-term need.

Guild said things remain incredibly busy at the food pantry, which has been the case since the need increased significantly over a year ago when the pandemic hit. This is why getting donations from organizations and groups, and volunteers like Philbrick and the others to help out, is really appreciated. 

“The pantry receives numerous food drive donations from area churches,” Guild said. “We are deeply appreciative of their commitment to support our community families.”

Guild said Philbrick was meticulous in her efforts with the donation – making sure to call ahead, asking specifically what they need, checking to make sure they were not donating any expired food, having it all sorted, etc., even sending an email after volunteering to thank them for the opportunity to serve. 

“They were great,” Guild said. “Lots of items from our wish list were included, which was very generous. And they were outstanding volunteers, rock stars.”

Guild said many of the food pantry’s wish list items are requested donations because they are not typically available for their pantry clients, including snacks of all types, cereal, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, toilet paper, and paper towels.    

We continue to see new families coming each month from our region to the pantry,” Guild said. “Hunger still exists, and we are an established community resource for these families. We are deeply appreciative of our continued community support including all food drive collections, monetary donations, and volunteers.”

For more information including volunteering and dropping off donations call 978-563-1064, email wfp@wachusettfoodpantry.org, visit wachusettfoodpantry.org, and follow Wachusett Food Pantry on Facebook. 

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