For anyone who has ever had any connection to the Groton Food Providers (GFP) food pantry over the past two decades, the name of its coordinator for the last nine years, Donna Bernhardt, is likely a familiar one.
Bernhardt has been a dedicated volunteer and leader for the food pantry and is greatly loved by the approximately 25 other volunteers she supervises, as well as the patrons of the pantry who have interacted with her over the years. Bernhardt’s unwavering commitment was aptly honored when she received an award from the Dryden Grange naming her as the recipient of its 2017 Community Service Award that year.
The GFP pantry is open beginning at 10 a.m. every second and fourth Saturday of each month at The Joyce Crouch Benevolence Building, 701 S. Main St.; providing free food until 11:30 a.m. Bernhardt has rarely missed a day of serving.
She also helps her husband, Charles Bernhardt, whenever she is needed on their beef farm on Sovocool Hill Road and is also a board member of the Groton Assembly of God Church, where her dedicated service is also prevalent.
Coining the adage, “All good things must come to an end,” Bernhardt plans to step down from the GFP, effective this Jan. 1, at which time Jess Stone, her husband, Mike, and their six children, ranging in age from seven to 17, will take over the coordination of the pantry.
“I’ve enjoyed working with the community and the volunteers are all great,” said Bernhardt, “but it’s time to retire and move on. It’s time for the next generation to take a turn. I do want to particularly thank Diane Costa and Paul Eveleigh, who have both helped me so much. They have been my right-hand woman and man, and I couldn’t have done it without them.” Costa will also be stepping down in January, but Eveleigh will remain.
Bernhardt did say she plans to do some volunteering at the Groton Women’s Center Clothing Closet when it moves to the Open Door on Main Street sometime next spring, so folks will be able to stop by and see her there!The GFP’s next coordinator, Jess Stone, was born and raised here in Groton. She is the daughter of Sam and Cheryl Rose of Chipman’s Corners Road and a class of 2002 alumna of Groton High School.
Mike Stone grew up in the Ithaca area. The two met in 1999, married and became a blended family of five in 2007, and grew to become a family of eight since then. The entire family has already been volunteering at GFP for several months now, learning the ropes from Bernhardt and all the amazing volunteers.
“I think it’s important that families serve together so children can learn the value of service. It’s our desire that each of our children develop a heart to serve their church and their community,” Stone said. “I want to thank Donna and Diane for taking the time to really help me feel that I can take over with confidence. I’ve learned a lot from them and hope to use all that knowledge to keep things going.”
Stone also said she is looking for ways to expand meeting the needs of our community, finding ways to help people, connect them with resources, and other areas of need. More volunteers are always welcome! “Even if you can’t help during the Saturday giveaways, there are other opportunities and tasks to help with during the week.”
Both Bernhardt and Stone were brimming with excitement as I interviewed them on Nov. 17, as they had just finished the annual Thanksgiving turkey dinner giveaway. Every family they served that day received a turkey, along with a pan and roasting bag to cook it in, and all the trimmings for the meal such as potatoes, vegetables, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and desserts.They were also able to deliver 43 turkey breast meals, along with all the above side dishes, to the senior citizens who are registered with the pantry who reside in Groton’s Center Village Court and Schoolhouse Gardens.
The Food Bank of the Southern Tier is the main source of the food that is given at the pantry, but it must be purchased with grant money from the government or other grants. The GFP was able to purchase the turkeys from FBST, but all the rest was made possible by donations from the First National Bank of Groton, the Robert C. Dempsey Insurance Company, and a generous $1,500 donation from Cornell University’s “Hunger Relief Students” group.
Much of the food that is given away has come from local churches, the Boy and Girl Scouts, the Groton Post Office, and various Groton school or other groups. Thus, donations of canned or other non-perishable food are always welcome, as are cash donations of any amount.
For any questions you may have, please contact Jess Stone at (607) 592-4825, or visit the GFP website at grotonassembly.org/groton-food-providers.
Groton Community Choir performancesSave the dates and plan to attend one or more performances of the Groton Community Choir’s 68th musical cantata. Under the direction of Ginny Casey, the group will present the Christmas musical, “Unspeakable Joy,” at the Groton High School auditorium, 400 Peru Road, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8.On Sunday, Dec. 9 the performances will be at 3 p.m. at the Groton Community Church, 204 East Cortland St., and Dryden Baptist Church, 138 Virgil Road in Dryden, at 7 p.m.
Light refreshments will follow each performance. There is no charge for the concerts, but free-will donations will be gratefully accepted. No one affiliated with the choir benefits financially, but the cost of music books and other materials needed seems to only increase each year.
Groton on the Inside appears weekly. Submit items to Linda Competillo, email@example.com or 607-227-4922
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