Volunteers, left to right, Levi Antonuccio and Frankie Magro, both of Quakertown, and Jenn Fischler, case worker for Bucks County Youth Services Agency, hold bags of groceries inside Bucks County Housing Group's Milford Square food pantry.
You would be amazed at how much help and hope can come out of a meager shed.
At the Bucks County Housing Group’s (BCHG) facility on Milford Square Pike in Milford Township, literally hundreds of area residents are served each month from a food pantry, located in a 10-ft.-by-15-ft. outbuilding, and a shelter, set in a converted single-family home.
The county agency, which also operates food pantries in Doylestown and Penndel, gives qualified people assistance with grocery and household needs often on a weekly basis.
“We really have a variety of people come in,” noted Volunteer Coordinator John Kunes. “We have single moms, veterans, senior citizens, the whole spectrum.”
Kunes said the Milford Square pantry helps about 150 families or 500 individuals each month. Some hear about the facility by word of mouth or are referred by a county agency. While many are unemployed, many more are underemployed and just can’t make ends meet on meager salaries.
“This is a microcosm of people we serve,” Kunes explained, citing an example of clientele. “We had a girl who was unemployed and after she found a full-time job, she wasn’t making a lot of money and still needed help for necessities like food.”
The agency helps one family with 10 children, volunteers noted, as well as elderly people who are living with their children and grandchildren.
Kunes said Quakertown area residents simply come in, provide identification and fill out a form to receive assistance. They receive a certain amount of each food group from the pantry, he said, depending upon family size. They get to choose from fresh foods and produce, to non-perishables to frozen foods. The small space houses four freezers and a refrigerator.
The pantry is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Many of the fresh foods, such as breads, are donated by area companies like Giant and BJ’s Wholesale Club, both of Quakertown. The Milford-Trumbauersville Democratic Club also routinely holds food drives that benefits the pantry, as does the Technology Student Association (TSA) from Milford Middle School, Trumbauersville Elementary, The Goddard School and many area churches and individuals.
Area businesses like North American Specialty Glass and the Brick Tavern Inn also help the food pantry on a regular basis with funding and/or food donations.
When the pantry needs to purchase food, BCHG can do so at a discounted rate from the hunger relief organization Philabundance.
While Kunes said there is tremendous support from the community, there is a constant, overwhelming need for help.
“We have great community support and a good network here, but we are always busy,” he said.
The shelter portion of the facility, which serves Upper Bucks clients, used to be an emergency shelter but now provides transitional housing for clients who need a place to call home. Clients can stay for up to 12 months while they “flush out plans for their future” and find affordable housing, said BCHG Chief Development Officer Melissa Mantz.
“This site is important because it allows families to get back on their feet,” she said.
Six families, many with small children, currently live at the Milford Square home.
The facility is now in need of funding for a big purchase – a newer minivan to transport clients. Right now they are operating with an older model Plymouth Breeze, which is not only unreliable, but needs significant body work due to rust.
Clientele at the shelter often need transportation to the Bucks County governmental offices in Bristol, a 60-mile round-trip, and other appointments. There is no public transportation network in Upper Bucks.
The facility has raised $10,300 to date for a van, but has a goal of $15,000.
The Milford location could also use more volunteers for both the pantry and the shelter. Currently, about 30 people come out to volunteer, some once a month, but the BCHG is always looking for more helping hands. The dedicated staff they have now, who do everything from minor household repairs to stocking the cupboards to data entry, say they enjoy serving others because they can.
“I wanted to do something to help out people who are less fortunate,” said Patrick Duffy, who schedules volunteers.
Mantz said she wants to thank the Milford and Quakertown communities for their ongoing support.
“We couldn’t do it without them and if you think about it, who are you helping? Your neighbors in need. Wherever you are in Bucks County, I urge you to find out what’s in your community. Support your local food pantry. People who may have just been using food pantries on an emergency basis are using them on a regular basis,” she said. “We never thought it would be like this. What you have with the food is almost a disaster-like need that doesn’t let up.”
For more information on BCHG, Milford Square, call (215)736-5971 or visit www.bchg.org or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BCHG.NOW.