PERU — Use of the Servants Heart Food Pantry has increased greatly since the community service moved into the basement of the former elementary school.

Brenda Swan, director of the food pantry that began in the United Baptist Church, said about 130 families visit the pantry every month.

“The pantry is stretched to the limit,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “There is more need and word has gotten out. We’re seeing different circumstances now. Some working families can’t make ends meet.”

On Wednesday morning, she and the volunteers who help out at the brightly lit rooms containing the food, got assistance from third- and fourth-graders at Dirigo Elementary School to stock the shelves.

“I was amazed at how well they work together. We just received 8,000 pounds and they helped us sort things and take care of it,” Swan said.

Lori Johnston and Erin Deprey, elementary teachers at the school, said they try to bring their classes to the food pantry to help out once a week. At the first of the new year, pupils will not only continue to help at the food pantry, but they will also visit the residents at the Victorian Villa Rehabilitation and Living Center in Canton.

“The children have been good workers. We got a lot of work done,” Swan said.

Katie Chiasson, of Dixfield, also volunteers two or three times a month.

“I enjoy what they do,” she said of the food pantry staff. “They treat people with dignity and respect.”

Swan said volunteer Pat Hickey, a member of the Peru church, is also a great asset to the food pantry.

“She’s a great buyer and gets a lot of free stuff,” Swan said.

Swan is also pleased with the Friends of Peru Elementary School.

“They’ve been really good to us and let us have more space and let us spill over,” Swan said.

The pantry is open from 9 a.m. until noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Donations are always accepted.

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