Bradley Beach Food Pantry Founder Turning 100


coaster-news-200-newBy JOSEPH SAPIA

If you can spare a hundred, the Bradley Food Pantry is ready to take it off your hands.

The 100, in honor of founder Eleanor Pierson turning 100-years-old Friday, Sept. 19, can be in various forms, such as $100, 100 dimes, 100 cans of food, 100 minutes or hours of volunteerism and so on.

Or more or less than 100.

“There’s no cutoff,” said pantry director Linda Curtiss. “It’s really celebrating the legacy of what she created.”

The Bradley Food Pantry, which sits on the grounds of St. James Episcopal Church, at the corner of 4th and Hammond avenues in Bradley Beach, serves 600 families, or 1,600 people, per month, Curtiss said.

“It’s really a wonderful community outreach for our neighbors in need,” Curtiss said. “It astonishes me over 600 families a month are hungry enough to stand in line (for food).”

The pantry, an incorporated non-profit charity, serves Bradley Beach, Avon, Ocean Grove, Neptune, Neptune City, Asbury Park, Belmar, Lake Como and Wall.

“Frankly, anyone who comes to us gets food,” Curtiss said. “But we focus on these areas, because you can only do so much.”

Visitors to the pantry should meet certain guidelines (such as being on Medicaid, having a low income by federal standards or need because of a disaster) and can come once a month, per regulations for federally distributed food.

“Anybody who walks in and says they’re hungry gets food,” Curtiss said.

“Based on family size, you get three or more bags of food,” said Curtiss, explaining it could be non-perishables, fresh foods and personal items. “We try to give them three-days-worth of food.”

“They give you good food, produce,” said Tracy Nelson, 45, a Neptune resident who has been coming to the pantry about four years.

Nelson is a mother of three, ages 5 to 11, and can only work part-time as a certified nurse’s aide because her youngest child is disabled.

“I just come here and I use it to add on to the food I buy,” Nelson said.

Ralph Parkman, 67, of Neptune comes for food for a family of five.

“I need food,” Parkman said. “My expenses in the house are so heavy. I need food just to support my family.”

Basically, pantry volunteers distribute food items on a recipient’s need, although recipients do not actually pick out their own supplies, Curtiss said.

“We do some modest tailoring, but we are not set up (that) you can pick your own food,” Curtiss said.

Distributed goods are a combination of federal and state government-supplied, donated and bought items. In 2013, the pantry spent $20,000 on food “to supplement what we get for free” and $10,000 on such things as bags for food and utility costs, Curtiss said.

The pantry is all-volunteer, run by about 85 people who do a variety of jobs, Curtiss said.

“Volunteers love being here,” said Curtiss, 64, a Bradley Beach resident who has been involved with the pantry since December and its director since May. “They love the camaraderie.”

“I started bringing donations and got involved,” said Jeanette Bill, 62, a Neptune City resident who has been volunteering at the pantry for about seven years. “It’s busy. They needed help. As you can see, we don’t stop.”

Even on a recent rainy day that drew only 28 parties, the volunteers kept busy filling orders during the two hours the pantry is open on weekdays. Normally, Bill sees 35 to 45 coming in when she volunteers.

“Just after (Superstorm) Sandy hit, there were days we were doing 55 to 65 families in just two hours,” Bill said. “The demand is still incredible.

“It’s tough, it’s tough for people out there,” Bill said. “They say the economy’s turning around. The average person’s not seeing that.”

More than 30 years ago, Pierson approached then-pastor, Ken Gluckow, about the idea of opening a pantry. It opened Oct. 7, 1982.

Through the pantry, Pierson’s family declined a request for an interview with Pierson.

The pantry occupies the Bea Shafer Outreach Center, named after pantry volunteer and St. James Church parishioner who provided money at her death that was used toward the building, Curtiss said. The building, completed in 1998, consists of a foyer; pantry; basement storage area; and a community room, which is used for various community programs.

The pantry accepts donations of money, non-perishable foods and personal products. Donations are accepted during the pantry’s regular hours of 10 a.m. to noon, Monday to Friday.

On Sept. 18, Oct. 2 and 16 and Nov. 6 and 20 at the pantry, The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties will assist people in applying for food stamps, Medicaid and other programs, assistance in paying utilities, disaster assistance and affordable healthcare. The hours are 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., during which food also will be distributed.

Lisa Sheard, 40, of Neptune, disabled and not working, has been coming to the pantry for more than 10 years.

“They are very good people, they are very giving, they help anyone, they give to the best of their ability and they are very respectful,” Sheard said. “I would recommend them to anyone.”

“As long as we can give them something and the babies aren’t going to bed hungry, that’s all I care about,” Bill said.

The Bradley Food Pantry is on the grounds of St. James Episcopal Church, 605 4th Ave. at Hammond Avenue, Bradley Beach, 07720; Telephone: 732-775-0161; E-mail:; website: Hours are 10 a.m. to noon, Monday to Friday.

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