Written and Edited: Lexie Cutmore, Alexis Bott, Bridget Robson, Matt Lauster and Zach Wagner
Canalside Chronicles Staff
The global hunger crisis is an ongoing battle and millions of people are fighting starvation on a daily basis. In the Village of Brockport, hundreds of struggling families turn to the Brockport Food Shelf as a last resort for a good nutritious meal.
The Brockport Food Shelf is a non-profit organization that serves residents with the donations they receive from churches, organizations and individuals. They don’t have any form of income screening that way they can help everyone in the community get the resources that they need. Foodlink also helps provide support by providing food for the food shelf.
Jeanne Derefinko, a retired health care administrator, spends her days volunteering at the food shelf for those who need it most. Since Derefinko began volunteering in the late 90’s, she has gotten to know the people who come to the food shelf on a personal level. She said that she thinks of the people who visit the Brockport Food Shelf as not only acquaintances, but good friends.
“After a while you know your people. If somebody doesn’t show up for a month or even two months you start to wonder ‘what’s going on?’” Derefinko said.
When Derefinko first started volunteering, she knew that most of the people who come to the food shelf were struggling but she never imagined that it would have an impact on her as a person.
“I think I’ve seen much more of a side of life I had not seen before, you don’t tend to see it if you’re not involved in it,” Derefinko said.
She has met people from all walks of life. Some of the people she described are hardworking citizens who are struggling to put food on the table. Other people have been through financial hardship and are trying to get their lives back on track. An overwhelming number of people who come in to the food shelf feel as if they have nowhere else to turn.
“We’ve had people who had cancer. We’ve had people who’ve lost loved ones. You identify with a lot of people who come in here,” Derefinko said.
Derefinko told stories of people who came in and have endured unimaginable medical procedures and are doing their best to pay off their medical bills. Many of those people find solace in the Brockport food shelf. Derefinko said that those are the people that resonate with her the most.
“There’s one woman who had all her teeth pulled at the [University of Rochester]. She told me she had 121 shots of Novocain to have it done, one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. You don’t forget that,” Derefinko said.
For many, the Brockport Food Shelf means getting a fresh new start.
“The woman who lost her teeth said she moved out of the city, so her kids could come to a better school system and she said [the food shelf] made all the difference to her,” Derefinko said.
With the help of the food shelf, the woman who Derefinko described was able to support her kids so they could graduate high school and go onto college.
Derefinko believes that the Brockport Food Shelf is unique because people are able to choose which groceries they would like to take. She has to go through a chart setup to help each person based on their family size. She believes it is more effective because people can look though different sections and decide what type of food, such as grains, fruits and vegetables will best suit their family.
Derefinko and the other volunteers help the people who cannot come to the food shelf, whether it is for financial reasons or because of physical disabilities.
“My Husband and I deliver on Tuesdays. If someone can’t make it here, I’ll come down here and I’ll shop for them over the phone,” said Judy Waldack, a volunteer at the Brockport Food Shelf.
Volunteering every week is a demanding job for the people at the food shelf, from sorting through thousands of pounds of food to making deliveries right to people’s homes.
“It is a tough job since we’re all retirees, but you do it for the people, I don’t do it because I enjoy standing on my feet all day,” Derefinko said.
The satisfaction of helping people who have nowhere else to turn and seeing their families benefit from the services of the Brockport Food Shelf is what keeps Jeanne Derefinko and all the other volunteers coming back.