EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

June 30, 2013

Catholic Charities closes pantry

HAVERHILL — Catholic Charities has closed its food pantry which operated out of the Unitarian Universalist Church since 2001.

"We had to make a tough choice," said Virginia Doocy, director of Catholic Charities of Merrimack Valley. "After making an assessment, we realized we don't have enough money to hire more staff and we wanted to move on and do some other work."

Suzanne Ouellette, creative services manager for Catholic Charities, said, "Like every nonprofit organization operating in this economic environment, we are continuously evaluating how we can have the greatest impact on the communities we serve with our limited resources."

Open Hand Pantry distributed supplemental groceries Tuesdays and Wednesdays to 60 to 80 people. In addition to volunteers, Doocy said the pantry was manned by a part-time staff member and a supervisor. Catholic Charities received the food from Merrimack Valley Food Bank as well as local bakeries, companies, parishes and food drives. Members of the Universalist Church where the pantry was housed, collected several bags full of groceries for them on the first Sunday of the month.

"We had a lot of community support. We were happy to do it, it was a matter of the resources we had, but we couldn't do everything," she said.

Doocy also said there is an interest by other groups to reopen the pantry.

"The local community was invested in it. While people will miss coming to our location, there are still places to go for food in the community," Doocy said. "They know it's going to be less convenient for them, but most will manage to go to another pantry."

Catholic Charities does not have a food pantry in Lawrence, but its Lowell pantry will remain open, Ouellette said.

Doocy said Lowell has a bigger pantry, which is opened four days a week, including one evening.

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