Letters to the Editor: Food Pantry 08.11.16

Our readers comments

Great Dismay

Amagansett

August 8, 2016

Dear Editor,

It is with great dismay that I am even writing this letter, but it has come to my attention that the Windmill Housing Development Fund is planning to evict the East Hampton Food Pantry from its premises. This decision would have disastrous consequences for our community and must be reconsidered.

As a former volunteer, the East Hampton Food Pantry has left a definitive impact on my life. While the primary purpose of a food pantry isn’t to let high school students complete community service, having a place to volunteer on a routine basis impacted how I view our community and community service work. 

Over time, volunteering went from an obligation to a passion. It led me to seek out community service organizations when I went to American University, such as the professional fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. At the East Hampton Food Pantry, I learned one of the most important lessons a young person can be taught: When we turn our backs on those in need, we’re not only betraying our community, but ourselves as well. 

That is why news of the eviction has been so disturbing. I’m passionate about our community. We’re the town that supported Katy Stewart when she was battling cancer. We’re the town that actively supports our veterans and troops. But now, we’re going to be the town that kicked the East Hampton Food Pantry to the curb?

In East Hampton, I was taught the importance of compassion and community. Evicting the East Hampton Food Pantry lies in stark contrast to those values. So to Gerry Mooney and the Windmill Housing Development Fund, I would say: Please reconsider. 

The East Hampton Food Pantry needs to be seen for what it is: a vital part of our community and the embodiment of our values. This is not what our community wants. We’re better than that.

Sincerely,

ANDREW BENNETT

Thrown Out

Amagansett

August 8, 2016

Dear Dave,

It was with dismay that I read in Newsday and The Independent about the East Hampton Food Pantry being thrown out of the Windmill Housing center where it has been for 12 years. 

The Food Pantry offers a much-needed service to East Hampton residents, the majority of them senior citizens. The food pantry is a nonprofit organization and relies on donations to run. It does not have spare money just sitting around to enable it to “buy” another property, as some of the local 1 percent may think. 

The majority of the seniors asked do not want a gym and would not be able to use one. What they want is for their food pantry to remain in its easily accessible place.

I find it interesting that Gerry Mooney, who manages the apartments, says that the mission of the Windmill group is to service the seniors, and yet the board would appear to be doing quite the opposite by throwing the pantry out. Maybe some of the wealthy board members would like to get together and buy the food pantry a new building — that would truly be a way for those who have so much to give back to those in their community who have so little.

We can only hope that common sense will prevail and the food pantry will be allowed to stay where it is.

Sincerely,

FIONA BENNETT

Sense of Entitlement

East Hampton

August 8, 2016

To the Editor,

As a long-term member of the East End Community Organic Farm on Long Lane and the chairman of Whalebone Village, I have watched with much interest the development of the Food Pantry Farm and the attenuating oddness of its relationship to the East Hampton Food Pantry.

EECO Farm has always been a cool place: amazing setting, interesting people, full moon dinners, a place to have a small plot and enjoy the community. Like all community projects, we had a certain amount of turmoil until Darcy Hutzenlaub arrived on the scene. Strong, energetic, dedicated, and with a great temperament, she infused the place with a great energy and made a cool place even more special.

The farming component of EECO that calls itself the Food Pantry Farm really took off. At Whalebone we now have our own small farm, which Darcy helped us get funding for. We also get weekly shipments of organic produce for free, as do Windmill I and II and St. Michael’s. Darcy’s goal was to provide the best quality of organic produce to the East Hampton community — hard to argue with.

Except that the East Hampton Food Pantry took umbrage with the name “food pantry” and demanded that the Food Pantry Farm change its name and took them to court. They refused to accept the produce that the Food Pantry Farm was giving it and then questioned its quality, besmirching its good name.

Now the East Hampton Food Pantry is doing battle with Windmill II, where it has been housed at no cost for the past decade. When told that the space would no longer be available they accused Windmill of putting them out on the street, went to the press, and then to the town board. Instead of being grateful for the gift from Windmill, they spat some bile.

In a small town there is always a sense of territorial integrity and righteousness, but we usually bow to some kind of integrity and humility in the face of senseless conflicts. The Food Pantry Farm and Windmill have no conflict with the Food Pantry, so both disputes are one-sided and pretty disingenuous.

All three are doing really good things for the community. They are not competing or conflicting with each other. At Whalebone we are delighted with the Food Pantry Farm’s contributions and we have always appreciated and utilized the East Hampton Food Pantry. It seems like the problems are personality-driven, rather than based on substance.

Entitlement is the antidote to grace and humility. The Food Pantry needs a place to work, but Windmill has certainly done its share. The Food Pantry doesn’t make anything, while the Food Pantry Farm works its tail off to provide free organic produce to the clients of the Food Pantry. Seems like the Food Pantry needs to rethink its priorities, get some new board members, and lose its sense of entitlement.

NEIL HAUSIG

Gym Is Not Needed

Amagansett

August 7, 2016

To the Editor:

I’ve recently learned about the tremendous challenge that faces the East Hampton Food Pantry. 

As we know, when summer comes to an end, many of the folks who provide our comforts are left to face an empty winter. For many years, the food pantry has provided meals and continued security to over 300 families each week. I had the privilege to serve on the board and see firsthand the tremendous role that this safety net has provided. 

The donations that were made to the pantry were intended to buy food and ensure nourishment for our in-need workers and seniors. Therefore, I was truly disturbed to read that the pantry is being displaced from its Windmill Housing location (where so many of the senior beneficiaries reside), as a “gymnasium” has been voted in to the space instead.

The food pantry will be thrown out and our low-income seniors will be offered the use of gym equipment instead? I can only respond: Really? 

Who voted on this? Did the board shirk  its duty to be responsive to the true needs of the Windmill residents? Their community space should in fact provide community needs: social hours, music, lectures, and, as we have seen the need, a weekly, life-sustaining food supplement. A gym is not needed by senior residents, nor does it in any way meet the challenges that face our winter community. 

The beauty of East Hampton extends beyond the beaches and sunsets; we have a history of neighbors looking out for each other, looking in and offering a hand. This area is maintained throughout the year by workers and neighbors whose well-being must be secured by the food pantry. To lose this gift-of-conscience to a gym is truly outside the bounds of consideration and compassion. 

I wonder if other neighbors are concerned? Please speak up now. 

Thank you,

CHARLINE SPEKTOR