Oxford food pantry ribbon cutting set

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OXFORD — A new food pantry based in the Town Office will hold a ribbon cutting Thursday, but it’s already up and running.

The Oxford Helping Hands Food Pantry, a nonprofit organization, will hold its formal opening celebration at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Town Office.

Organizer Suzanne Grover and others worked to open a full-time food pantry after volunteers gave food to about 1,000 people from 270 families in January at the Oxford Recreation Center. The huge effort included about 40 volunteers and thousands of dollars donated by local businesses.

Volunteer Marge Owens said that huge turnout made it clear that a full-time pantry was needed. “That’s what made us realize that … there is a need,” she said Monday.

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The new pantry was open Tuesday and Thursday last week, but Owens called it “a dry run.” She said only a few people dropped by. “I don’t think the word’s out on the street yet.”

She said there are about 10 volunteers now. The pantry is open from 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but will also schedule appointments to work with people’s schedules.

Anyone who wants to donate food can leave it at the Oxford Town Office.

The pantry has received more than $2,500 since it was announced. According to Town Manager Michael Chammings, the pantry has been given $1,000 from Northeast Bank, $500 from Peter Laverdiere, $500 from James Pittman, $300 from Oxford Auto Salvage Inc., $100 from Anderson Staples Post 112 and more than $300 from anonymous donors.

He said Pizza Hut has offered a day of employees’ time and the Good Shepherd Food-Bank donated a freezer. The Oxford post office held a food drive and sent a large number of non-perishable items to the pantry.

“The donations have been great,” Owens said.

The pantry is volunteer-run with no paid staff, so all money donated pays for food.

The town of Oxford is letting the shelter use the room at no charge, and is covering utility costs. “The town was very, very generous in allowing us to use it,” Owens said.

To receive food at the pantry, recipients need a slip from the town, a church or a nonprofit like Community Concepts confirming that they are receiving assistance or are having financial trouble.

The pantry opens when unemployment in Oxford County appears to be on an upswing. In March, the most recent month available, unemployment in the county stood at 10.4 percent, up from 9.7 percent in December, according to the Maine Department of Labor.

That’s almost 2 percent above the state average of 8.5 percent, and higher than the U.S. Average of 9.2 percent for March.

The ribbon cutting ceremony will take place Thursday at 5 p.m. at the food pantry on the third floor of the Town Office. Hors d’ oeuvres will be served.

treaves@sunjournal.com

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