How a local non-profit is changing the canal community
By Maggie Benson
Canalside Chronicles Staff
It’s 5 a.m. on a Tuesday. B.J. Carpenter and Paul Cropsey sit at a table at Dunkin Donuts sipping coffee and devouring crullers. They only have about 10 more minutes before they have to hop in a van and be on their way.
The scene is the same every Tuesday morning. For more than ten years now they have been coming to this same Dunkin Donuts every week before they head out to distribute food to those who need it. From the Dunkin Donuts, they go to the Samaritan Harvest Warehouse, a 4,000 square foot building that holds over 380,000 pounds of non-perishable food. A retiree, Carpenter has been doing this since a member of his home church started the non-profit, Samaritan Harvest, three months ago.
“I started because at the time my daughter was having financial trouble. It made me realize that even those of us who should be well off, just need a little help. It’s been over ten years now and I still get up at 4 a.m. every week. I just can’t see myself not doing it now,” said Carpenter.
Also a retiree, Cropsey, started for a different reason.
“We’re just this little church by the canal. I never thought something so small could turn into something this impactful. I had just retired and I was straight bored. Figured I’d help some people with my free time.”
Originating from Spencerport Assembly of God, Samaritan Harvest started as a one man ministry. Founder Grant Wolfe used to run the operation out of the back of his pick-up truck. He would drive around to area Wegmans, picking up their donations, taking them to families in need.
“When I first started, I had no idea it would turn into this. I just saw a need in my community and tried to fill it,” said Wolfe.
Now, Samaritan Harvest is an interdenominational work, run seven days a week with 40 plus volunteers. It distributes annually more than 700,000 pounds of perishable foods to 41 locations throughout Monroe County.
Community member, Gloria Lovell, has been getting “boxes” from Samaritan Harvest weekly for two years now.
“They show up to your door with these banana boxes full of non-perishable [food items] and vegetables.” said Lovell. “There have been weeks where the only food my family had was what came in that blessed banana box. My kids look forward to it, digging through [it] like it’s Christmas.”
Another community member, Ruth Johnson, only just recently started receiving donations from Samaritan Harvest.
“A friend of mine told me about the service, she knows I’ve been having a rough time recently. I was so grateful. I box full of food may not seem like much, but to me it gives me the ability to make it through the week,” shared Johnson.
Outside sources have also commended Samaritan Harvest as an extremely efficient operation and strong business model. The organization has also received multiple awards including New York State recognition of one of the four agencies to make a substantial impact on hunger in the 10 counties of the Western region of New York State.
Samaritan Harvest may be a local non-profit, but its reach expands every day. Wolfe hopes to keep expanding until they need more space and more volunteers.
“I would love to able to help even more people.” said Wolfe. “The more food we get through [our] doors means more food on the table of someone who needs it.”