EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

July 28, 2013

Community rallies to reopen Open Hand Pantry

Editor’s note: Do you know any one or any group making a difference in your community? If so, please let City Editor Warren Talbot know at wtalbot@eagletribune.com.

HAVERHILL — Almost a month after Catholic Charities closed the Open Hand Pantry, churches, community groups, businesses and politicians rallied around to reopen it.

The effort paid off.

On Aug. 6, the pantry again begins distributing supplemental groceries to needy families and individuals at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 15 Kenoza Ave. under a different name.

The Rev. Robert W. Murray, pastor of St. James and St. John the Baptist Parish got the ball rolling after he received half a dozen calls and several of his parishioners expressed concern on what was going to happen to the pantry’s clients, especially those who did not have transportation to go to pantries on the other side of the city.

“As soon as we heard the announcement, people got together and decided to give it a shot,” said Murray, a priest for 25 years. “A lot of people came forward to offer their help.”

St. James and St. John the Baptist will oversee the pantry with volunteers from both churches and other congregations. Melissa Ganais who has worked at the pantry through Catholic Charities, will remain with the ministry.

The Rev. Frank Clarkson, pastor at the Unitarian Church and the church’s board voted to keep the pantry continue operating out of its basement as it has done since 2001.

“It was possible for our board to find another tenant where we could make more money, but the pantry is a vital part of the community and it’s more important to us to have them,” Clarkson said.

Members of the Activities Committee at St. James and St. John the Baptist donated $3,000 to pay for a year’s rent at the pantry. The 30-member group raised the money through a roast pork dinner, church picnic, cookie walk and raffles. Their biggest fundraiser was charging for parking at St. John during the Fourth of July festivities.

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