Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

When Armory Pantry Closed Doors, Rotary Members Stepped Up to Help

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

When Armory Pantry Closed Doors, Rotary Members Stepped Up to Help

Article excerpt

RUTHERFORD -- The stainless steel shelves were piled high with boxes of cereal, canned green beans, deodorant, baby wipes, diapers, and even laundry detergent in one corner.

"You know what we need? Tuna fish, canned tuna fish," said Carl Hassett, a former New York City firefighter and borough resident, who was taking a mid-afternoon break from upholstering and repairing Queen Anne chairs and couches to talk about one of the newest causes of area Rotary Clubs -- a small food pantry devoted to providing supplemental groceries to families of active duty members of the National Guard and veterans.

Members were prompted into action last year by a story in The Record that detailed the abrupt closing of a food pantry at the Teaneck Armory, which opened in 2005 to serve the families of troops who had been deployed. They continued serving them after their return from combat.

Calisto Bertin, chairman of the charitable arm of Rotary District 7490, said that the organization had been looking for a local cause to support. The district represents clubs in Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties.

"In our Gift of Life program we do operations on children whose parents don't have money," he said last week of the group's work internationally. "And these operations can cost anywhere from $30,000 and $40,00 and up to several hundred thousands of dollars. ... If Rotary can do that for people we don't know, what can we do for our neighbors and friends?"

"When that article came out, it took me all of 10 seconds to say, 'That's it,' " he added.

With the blessing of the group's governor, Bertin and others named themselves the Rotary District 7490 Military Family Assistance Center and started collecting donations from members and through food drives. By December they had collected $23,000 and thousands of food items to start the pantry, Bertin said.

The pantry opened in January and serves 15 families, who place their orders online, Bertin said. The goods are then boxed, from where they are stored in a neat corner at Hassett's store, and hand- delivered to families twice a month at the American Legion building on Meadow Road in Rutherford. …

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