By Steve Sears
The Mount Olive Food Pantry was founded in 2013.
“The pantry serves all residents, all who worship at any place of worship in the township, and anybody who works in Mount Olive,” says Susan Morse, pantry administrator since 2014. “Today, due to the COVID pandemic, we serve anyone who comes to our door.”
The pantry was founded by the township itself and met Mayor Rob Greenbaum’s vision to see the pantry eventually privatized and expanded. “The Mayor asked if any of the local churches would be interested. Rev. Matthew Jones of Mountaintop Church and Rev. Sonia Waters of Christ Episcopal Church both stepped up and combined their efforts to take over and run the township’s food pantry, according to the Mayor’s vision,” says Morse. Rev. Jones created a non-profit, faith-based corporation, Partners in Compassion, to privatize and oversee the food pantry. ”The corporation was created to allow the pantry to work with the township, secular organizations, and other faith-based entities. Rev. Sonia Waters’ helped to structure the operation of the pantry.”
Morse came on board as Administrator in 2014, and her major challenge was to organize what the pantry had to create; a workable system. ”We had a lot of unsorted canned foods, a small room in the township building, some money, and no real sources for food procurement. And, of course, this was brand new to me! But it was also necessary to visit a few other pantries and to see how they were run. The Interfaith Food Pantry in Morris Plains provided us with a lot of information.”
The community has been a huge aid to the pantry. ”Because of the pandemic and the news coverage,” says Morse, “the community has greatly stepped up with both food and funds for the pantry. Mount Olive Kiwanis regularly collects food that had been dropped off in special buckets at specific sites. Please see the pantry’s websites for those locations. The pantry also maintains a Facebook page, courtesy of Heidi Caruso.” Regular needs include canned vegetables, and particularly in demand are canned beets, potatoes, corn, and peas. “Also – and very important – are personal care products such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper, and deodorants.”
Morse speaks to the benefit of the Mount Olive Food Pantry, as well as its future. “At this point, the pantry has been able to meet the needs of the community. We serve approximately 100 families per month. All clients are given shopper’s choice for food items. Previously they would come into the pantry, register, and then be accompanied by a volunteer to shop the pantry. Client registration is kept confidential. Any groups coming in to see the pantry is always done separate from client hours. For holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hannukah, and Easter/Passover, the pantry provides a turkey or (if possible) a ham along with a bag of food items for the holiday meal, such as vegetables, potatoes, biscuit mix, a baking mix for a dessert. As to the future, we try to keep a pulse of the community, because so many have lost their jobs. Will that increase? We don’t know. As I mentioned earlier, we are well able to meet the needs of all who come to us.”
Per Morse, the pantry has recently updated website, www.mountolivepantry.org, with thanks to Your Cyber and Foresight Performance. “Our website is able to accept monetary donations. The donor will receive a receipt acknowledging the donation.” Due to the pandemic, the pantry has converted to curbside service. “The client receives a printed order form, which they fill out in their cars, and bring back. A volunteer then shops it. Another volunteer will then bag it and bring it out to the client. The client must either then open the trunk for the volunteer to load the packages, or the client can load their own packages.”
The Mount Olive Food Pantry administrative office toes the Mount Olive border at Mountaintop Church, 6 Naughright Road in Hackettstown. The pantry itself is located at 369 Sandshore Road in Budd Lake, on the lower level of Christ Episcopal Church. Pantry Hours are the 2nd and 4th Monday of the month, 6:30 p.m.– 8 p.m.; Tuesday, 9:30 a.m. – 12 noon; and Saturday, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. For inclement weather, check the pantry Facebook page or listen to WRNJ radio for updates.