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Valley leaders give $24,000 grant to alleviate “major” shortage at food banks

With a 10 to 15 percent increase in demand, Valley food banks are experiencing major shortages and empty shelves. Today, local business leaders and philanthropic organizations pulled together a $24,000 grant that they hope will help food banks continue to feed families and avoid turning anyone away.

“There were 38 families we couldn’t serve,” Bob Lally of the St. Vincent DePaul Society in Derby said. “It was the first time in our history we had to turn people away.”

The idea of hungry people and families being turned away from assistance didn’t sit well with members of the Valley United Way’s Corporate Volunteer Council, or the Valley Community Foundation. In just a few days, the two groups, with a large donation from the Prudential Foundation, pulled together $24,000 to help five area food banks. The United Way and VCF made the announcement during a press conference Friday.

“One thing that makes this area of state unique is that when there’s trouble and a problem, Valley people have risen to the occasion,” Jamie Cohen, President of the Valley Community Foundation said. “This all happened in the a matter of days.

The ball started rolling a few days ago when the issue came up in The United Way’s CVC meeting. Katie Scinto, of R.D. Scinto pledged $2,000 if the United Way could match it. The issue had also been raised at a VCF meeting by board member, Joseph Pagliaro, Jr., who is also the United Way’s Campaign Chair.

Jack Walsh, president of the United Way ,and Fred Ortoli, chairman of the board for the United Way, agreed to help and worked with the VCF in making matching donations. Both the United Way and the VCF each contributed $5,000. Soon after, the Prudential Foundation agreed to match the $12,000.

“This was not just a slight contribution, they doubled it,” Walsh said of Prudential.

Kimberly Tabb, vice president and chief of staff for Prudential Financial, said it was an easy choice to make.

“We recently toured one of the food banks and we were shocked at how thin the supplies looked,” Tabb said. “The idea of turning someone away is heartbreaking.”

Susan Agamy of Spooner House said the demand for the food bank has grown significantly in the last few years and a lot of if it has to do with the economy.

“We see a lot of different families, some who are unemployed, underemployed or because food stamps have been cut back,” Agamy said.

Each food bank is receiving the grants through a credit from the I.G.A. supermarket in Derby, organized by manager John Varrone, allowing each group to shop for what it needs.

Of the $24,000, $14,000 is going to Spooner House, $4,500 to St. Vincent DePaul, $2,500 to the local Salvation Army, $1,500 to the Seymour/Oxford Food Bank and $750 to the Parent Child Resource Center.

The agencies will be able to go shopping next week, Walsh said.

“We want our dollars turned into food as soon as possible,” Walsh said.

Developer Bob Scinto came to the press conference on his daughter’s behalf.

“I always say ‘ to whom much is given, much is required,’” Scinto said. “We really have to give back our money and time and we’re happy to be part of the program.”

Walsh said the grant will help some of the food banks get through until the holidays, when donations are more in the forefront of people’s minds.

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