SSKP Plans for Rise in Thanksgiving Need
As many of us are tempering our disappointment and adjusting Thanksgiving plans as COVID cases rise in the state and across the country, the number of people unable to afford everyday groceries is bound to grow. Locally, Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries (SSKP) is preparing to do its part to help.
According a September report by DataHaven based on its statewide Community Wellbeing Survey, 20 percent of adults reported that since February 2020, at least one adult in their household had been laid off. Twelve percent of men and 15 percent of women said they’d experienced food insecurity, meaning not having enough money for food for themselves and/or their families at some point in 2020.
SSKP continues to offer much-needed services to 11 communities across the shoreline: Chester, Clinton, Deep River, East Lyme, Essex, Killingworth, Lyme, Madison, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook. But in practice, the pantries and kitchens will serve anyone in need.
SSKP has distributed 1.3 million pounds this year, according to Executive Director Amy Hollis.
“That’s about 33,000 pounds every week,” she said. “We provide 400 meals to go throughout the week.”
Nine hundred families are served every week, with “families” defined as one to six people.
Groceries Are Available
“All five pantries continue to be open,” said Hollis. “We changed our hours; we moved most into daylight hours—as it gets colder, we’re still outside.”
These are the pantries’ new hours. Guests are welcome to visit any one of them once a week to pick up groceries curbside.
Tuesdays, 11:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.: Street Mark’s Roman Catholic Church, 222 McVeagh Road, Westbrook
Tuesdays, 1 to 4 p.m.: First Church of Christ (Congregational), 366 Main Street, Old Saybrook
Wednesdays, 3:30 to 6 p.m.: First Church of Christ, Congregational, 55 Church Road, Clinton
Thursdays, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.: Street John’s Episcopal Church, 400 Main Street, Niantic
Saturdays, 9 to 11 a.m.: First Congregational Church, 2 Ferry Road, Old Lyme
In addition, there are seven sites across the area offering take-out meals.
“Everyone is welcome at any of the meal sites,” Hollis said. “No matter where you’re from, food will be provided. We certainly aren’t turning anyone away.”
Sundays, 5 to 6 p.m.: United Church of Chester, 29 West Main Street, Chester
Mondays, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.: First Baptist Church in Essex, 10 Prospect Street, Essex
Tuesdays, 5 to 6 p.m.: Street John’s Episcopal Church, 23 Main Street, Essex
Wednesdays, noon to 1 p.m.: Grace Episcopal Church, 336 Main Street, Old Saybrook
Thursdays, 5 to 6 p.m.: Deep River Congregational Church, 1 Church Street, Deep River
Fridays, 12 to 1 p.m., Trinity Lutheran Church, 109 Main Street, Centerbrook
Fridays, 6 to 7 p.m., Westbrook Congregational Church, 1166 Boston Post Road, Westbrook
Thanksgiving meals will be distributed on Wednesday, Nov. 25 from noon to 2 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, 336 Main Street in Old Saybrook. These will be to-go Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings.
SSKP is also offering an online fellowship hour on Thanksgiving itself, including “greetings, gratitude, and hopefully some photos of the amazing efforts of our community,” according to the organization’s November newsletter.
“During COVID, it’s not just food that we’ve missed,” said Hollis. “Everyone’s missing fellowship. It’s not the same as being together, but it felt important to me to offer something.”
The event will take place Thursday, Nov. 26, from noon to 1 p.m. by logging in to global.gotomeeting.com/join/459425373. Alternatively, participants may join in by phone at +1 (571) 317-3122 with the access code 459-425-373.
Those new to GoToMeeting can download the app at global.gotomeeting.com/install/459425373.
Regular meals-to-go will be available during Thanksgiving week, with the exception of the Thursday meals ordinarily distributed at Deep River Congregational Church.
How to Help
Donations of non-perishable items and money are always welcome, explained Hollis.
“We receive food from the food banks but the gardens that contribute to us are closing” since the weather has turned cooler, she said. SSKP purchases food with donations and non-perishable items help, as well.
Area supermarkets provide bins for non-perishables and a number of organizations and businesses are sponsoring food drives.
Gowrie Group Challenge
Each holiday season, the Gowrie Group, together with local business partners, launches its Challenge to Shoreline residents and businesses to help raise money for SSKP. This year, its goal is $200,000. Gowrie has contributed $60,000, with half of that sum a personal pledge from Carter Gowrie.
Together, partners LC Doane Company, Tower Labs, Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, Sound Rigging, BrandTech Scientific, and Essex Financial have pledged an additional $42,000 in matching funds.
Each dollar contributed will be matched by Gowrie and its partners up to $102,000, for a total contribution of $204,000 to SSKP.
According to a Gowrie Group press release, since it began the challenge in 2004, the group and its partners have raised more than $1.8 million for SSKP.
Donations can be made online at https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/SSKP by selecting “Gowrie Group” as the designation. Checks may be mailed to Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries, Attn: Gowrie Challenge, P.O. Box 804, Essex, CT 06426. Donors are asked to note “Gowrie Challenge” on the check.
The Gowrie Challenge usually centers around a benefit concert at The Kate. This year, the concert will be recorded at The Kate and streamed on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. Featured artists include George Winston, Shanna in a Dress, The Meadows Brothers, Ebin-Rose Trio, Moving Target, and Carter Gowrie and Friends.
The concert is free with donations encouraged. The link can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/events/477255942881520/.
Throughout November: The Valley Shore YMCA hopes to collect 500 cans of food for donation to the SSKP. There are two collection areas: one inside, across from the Welcome Center, and a second to the left of the front entrance.
Nov. 20 to 22: The Clinton Rotary and Fire Department will join forces at the Clinton Stop & Shop to collect non-perishable food for SSKP.
Nov. 22: The Westbrook Democratic Town Committee will collect non-perishable food items, gift cards, and cash donations for SSKP from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Westbrook Town Green.
The need for social distancing means that volunteer crews have been limited to small groups. Those interested in volunteer opportunities should contact Volunteer and Program Director Jeff Ward at email@example.com.
More information about SSKP may be found at shorelinesoupkitchens.org.