Ten Questions with Open Pantry Coordinator, Gail Pickering
Learn more about Open Pantry at First Parish
FP: What does your group do?
Gail: Open Pantry is a First Parish UU outreach to the Greater Lowell area. It isn't really a committee or a defined group. I take responsibility for making sure the collection and drop-offs happen. The rest is done by those who contribute food and cash.
FP: Who is on your committee?
Gail: There is no formal committee. I guess I could be called a point person. However, over the past few years (and longer) there have been many non-committee members! Ellen and Roy Mellen, Edith Murphy, Bonnie Rankin, Patrick Snow, Lynne Cole, Akiko Sano, Kate Coffey and her friends, Sally Seekings, Cindy Gist, Sadie and the RE Kids who decorated bags and did a summer ‘kids’ collection, Joan Keane, Jean Moreau, and many others who publicized Open Pantry at their places of work. The ‘money counters’ who come forward to help at the Ingathering Service. The people who load the groceries from that collection into the cars. And many others I have forgotten or don’t know about. History has it that Pat Moore was instrumental in this First Parish Outreach and commitment.
FP: Why did you choose to become OP Coordinator?
Gail: I was looking for a way to contribute that did not require lots of meetings!
FP: What is your favorite part of your work?
Gail: I enjoy the actual point of contact when I walk in to Open Pantry in Lowell and bring in the food, and briefly chat with the staff and see the recipients.
FP: What are some of the jobs that member do?
Gail: Well, I decide the collection dates, and write the reminder emails and notices that Cindy reliably sends out and sometimes edits. She also puts them in the Order of Service and on the Church calendar. Yoko quietly makes sure there is a good and sturdy box or boxes for the donations. There are two or three church volunteers who have dropped off the donations in Lowell. Most of the time I pick up the donations and bring them to Open Pantry in Lowell. I try to have a conversation with the Open Pantry director when I drop off donations, to find out if there are any specific types of food or items they would really appreciate, and if so, to publicize that. I think it is important to make donation requests interesting, especially when people in general are strapped financially.
FP: When (how often) does your group meet?
Gail: Never. I generally have a conversation with Rev. Ellen around Thanksgiving, to make sure that the Ingathering Open Pantry collection will once again happen!
FP: What are your committee's goals for next year?
Gail: I would like to have more people involved. In all honesty, I am glad I am contributing but am getting somewhat bored. I believe the outreach needs to continue but would love feedback on how to make it more interesting, fun and more connected. Maybe the Open Pantry outreach could use some restructuring?
FP: How long have you been working with Open Pantry?
Gail: Not sure – maybe 5 or 6 years?
FP: What would you like the congregation to know, that we haven't asked you?
Gail: I would actually like to step down from ‘doing’ Open Pantry and would be glad to have an apprentice. The apprentice period would not take very long!
FP: How can your group help other committees?
Gail: Collecting food and publicizing the collections are two functions that could easily be service projects for any person or group needing a service project.
FP: What are some of the events your group has had in the past?
Gail: None that I can recall. Sometimes parts of Church fundraisers to go Open Pantry. I have applied for and gotten two Faith In Action grants for Open Pantry, to go to them in the beginning of summer, in anticipation of fewer donations.
FP: What openings do you currently have in your group?
Gail: It would be great for more people to be involved. It would be nice to have a scheduled group of individuals who would make the drop-offs.