Editor’s note: This is part of a weekly series of stories to be published over the summer about ordinary people who are making a difference in their communities.
LAWRENCE — Every Wednesday, hundreds of people would wait in a line that would circle around the building at Essex and Hampshire streets during snow, rain or sunshine to get supplemental groceries from Food for the World.
For the past few weeks, the line has disappeared from 447 Essex St. as the nonprofit agency had to vacate after the building was sold.
“All I do is cry and cry and cry,” said Julia Polanco, who founded Food for the World in 1995. “Whoever stands in line in whatever kind of weather, means they are truly hungry and need food.”
Food for the World had rented five rooms at 447 Essex St., since 2006. In addition to the people who came to get groceries, the nonprofit sets up pantries at four elderly housing complexes in Lawrence and one in Salem.
The offices for Food for the World have temporarily moved to 620 Essex St., where they run its nutrition and computer classes. For the time being, the pantry is being run out of a tiny room in the basement of Iglesia Cristiana y Misionera, (Christian and Missionary Church) 435 Essex St., a few doors down from its previous location.
Polanco began the pantry out of her van by bringing groceries to homes of people who had been released from the hospital and inmates in prison. As the word spread and the need for food grew, she rented five rooms at 447 Essex St.
In addition to the weekly distribution, she gave out food baskets at Thanksgiving, feeding 2,309 families last November, she said.
Polanco was born in the Dominican Republic and has lived in Lawrence for 40 years. She worked at AT&T in North Andover.