Groton on the Inside: Public service: It’s a family affair for the Stones

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Saturday, Jan. 12 was an exciting day for the Groton Food Providers (GFP) new coordinator, Jess Stone, as she, her husband, Mike, and all six of their children began a new family endeavor with all of them serving at the pantry in The Joyce Crouch Benevolence Building at 701 S. Main St.


The family had already been volunteering at the GFP for several months; learning the ropes from its long-time coordinator, Donna Bernhardt, and all the amazing pantry volunteers, but with Bernhardt’s retirement, Stone officially took the reigns at the beginning of this year.


Stone was born and raised in Groton and is 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, eventually growing to become a family of eight, and now make their home in Groton together.


When asked what motivated her to step up to become the coordinator of the GFP, Stone said, “I want people to understand my main heart’s desire for wanting to do this. It’s because I’ve been there. I have known what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet. I have been that single mom who had no idea what to do or what programs were out there for me, and I have at one time or another lived through being that family in crisis – dealing with a job loss or a medical catastrophe.”


She understands what it’s like to utilize local services like a food pantry.


“I’ve seen how negative an experience going to a food pantry can be for some people,” Stone said. “They feel ashamed, wondering what people think, and feel that there is a certain stigma attached to it.”


The vision Stone has for the pantry extends far beyond just handing out food. She wants to reverse any negative feelings anyone might have about coming as a “customer” by welcoming everyone and making them feel connected from the moment they arrive until the moment they leave.


When she was 8-years-old, Stone said her life was very chaotic and she felt helpless, confused, and like her world was falling apart. Her daycare providers, Rich and Linda Carnright, began taking her to the Wednesday Family Night activities at Groton Assembly of God.


“I found love, acceptance, and hope because of how the people on those Wednesday nights treated me, and I want to offer those same feelings to others who may feel the way I felt back then.” She said, “I think it’s important that families serve together so children can learn the value of service.”


It’s this outlook that motivates Stone to incorporate her entire family into serving at GFP.


“The reason,” said Stone, “that I want my children to learn to serve and connect with people around them is so that they will learn the importance of stopping and taking notice of people. I want them to know how even a simple action like smiling or being friendly can change someone’s day.”


The Stone children range in age from 7 to 17, and they are all eager and excited about serving at the GFP – behind the scenes as well as during the food giveaways. There is a lot to do aside from the Saturday food distribution. Tasks and jobs are available for all ages to take on.


The pantry is accessible to any Groton town or village resident. Beginning at 10 a.m. every second and fourth Saturday of each month, the Groton Food Providers is open for business, providing free food until 11:30 a.m.


To distribute the food, Stone said there is a schedule posted on the door of the pantry that indicates a certain timeframe for families to come, based on the first letter of their last name. This is rotated each time so that everyone has an opportunity to go first.


Stone will incorporate a new system to allow larger families to be allotted larger portions of food items. “It doesn’t seem quite fair for a household of four or more to receive the same amount as a household of one or two,” said Stone, “so we are changing things up there to be more equitable.”


The Food Bank of the Southern Tier is the main source for the food that is given away, but it must be purchased with grant money from the government or other sources. Much of the food that is distributed 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.


Stone also said she is looking for ways to expand the offerings at the GFP; meeting the needs of our community, finding ways to help people, and connecting them with resources and other areas of need.


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 on the Inside appears weekly. Submit news ideas to Linda Competillo, lmc10@cornell.edu or (607) 227-4922.

Briefs

Outstanding CTE students
The following Groton students were recognized as outstanding students of the month at the Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES Career and Technical Education Center. Thomas McDougal, Auto Technology, was honored this past November. In December: Deidre Brame, Welding; MacKenzie Moore, Cosmetology; Cordell Riemer, Career Exploration Program; and Travis Totman, Welding, were all recognized.


The outstanding students are chosen based on qualities such as character, leadership, citizenship, work ethic, and attendance. They must also be compassionate, honest, trustworthy, responsible, and a positive role model.

Tax payments due

Just a reminder that your town and county tax bill must be paid in full by Thursday, Jan. 31 to avoid the accrual of interest. See your tax bill for applicable interest charges thereafter. There is an extended deadline of Thursday, Feb. 7 for qualifying senior citizens who pay their bill in full by that date. Qualifications are listed on your tax bill, or you may call the town clerk’s office at (607) 898-5035 to inquire.


Tax bills paid by escrow accounts have been mailed to your bank, but if you do not have an escrow account, and have not received your bill, you should call the office, as you will still be responsible for payment.


Tax payments will be received at the clerk’s office, 101 Conger Blvd., from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday until Monday, April 1. The office will be open from 8 a.m. until noon on Saturdays during January only. For online payments of taxes, see townofgrotonny.org for details.

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