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  • Stephen D'Agostino

An Act of Community Brings Fresh Produce to the Area’s Needy

At this time of the year, you always hear the adage, “it’s better to give than to receive.” This week, I want to share a story that proves that adage true. It’s also a story of community.

A while ago, I received an email from Sara Norcross. She suggested I do a story that paid tribute to an act of giving and generosity that has been occurring for several years and has a direct impact on some of the needier residents of the area. It required me to do a bit of digging. When I got the call, I was very busy with my day jobs. I pushed the story off a bit, hoping for a lull in the action.

I found that lull and made a phone call to Steve Moyer of the Woodstock Farmers’ Market, as Sara and Dana Waters, the chair of the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf, had suggested. Steve is the market’s chief financial officer and a very busy man. While I was talking to him on the phone last Thursday morning, I could hear him being paged over the PA system. Once, he had to put me on hold to help an excited co-worker who had a problem. He is also the linchpin of an operation that, during the winter months, brings fresh produce to the clients of two community food shelf programs.

Steve explained to me that years ago, the Woodstock Farmers’ Market began collecting money at the registers from mid-November to January 1 to purchase produce for the Woodstock Community Food Shelf. The store matched the donations received dollar for dollar. In the early years of this program, the fund drive generated $600-$700 from change and bills added to the donation bins, plus the matching donation.

With this money and the cooperation of Black River Produce, Steve was able to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables and provide them to the Woodstock Community Food Shelf.

Time went on, and Nick Ferro of Ferro Jewelers approached the Woodstock Farmers’ Market with an idea. He suggested soliciting funds from the members of the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce to expand the program, specifically to include the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf. His idea proved a success and the amount of money available to purchase produce increased dramatically.

Reviewing his records, Steve noted that Woodstock Farmers’ Market first started donating produce to the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf over nine years ago. Now, as then, they make these donations during the colder months, delivering produce bi-weekly mid-November through March and possibly April.

“I try to stretch the dollars I have,” said Steve. “I try to get items that are favorably priced.” He opts for harder produce such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions first, then oranges, grapefruits, apples, and bananas. When prices are good, he’ll purchase grapes and recently clementines, definitely a treat at this time of the year. For green veggies, he goes for broccoli, beans, cucumbers, kale, and spinach. Also, tomatoes.

Last year, Woodstock Farmers’ Market tried something different. They left the donation bins out all year. As a result, shoppers gave $2,640, which the store matched. They also received around $1,500 in donations from Nick Ferro’s efforts. Steve can see the total amount available to the program topping $7,500 this year.

Why does he do it? “We are blessed to be in business,” he said of Woodstock Farmers’ Market, “with access to good produce.” It is the store’s way of living up to their focus, which is to feed the community.

Thank yous from me, Sara Norcross, Dana Waters to Steve Moyer, Nick Ferro, and Patrick Crowl, the owner of Woodstock Farmers’ Market, for this act of community and to the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf for the services you provide to people who may be struggling. You not only help them eat but help them eat right.

As a reminder, the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf is open on Mondays from 2 to 4 and Thursdays from 4 to 6.

Now, a few things from the broken record department.

Don't forget Caroling, Cocoa, & Cookies is on Friday, December 22, at 6:30 at the Reading Public Library. Bring your best singing voice, and a headlamp or flashlight.

An addition to the service to be held at the Old Stone Church on Sunday, December 24, at 5pm. Hazel King tells me that at the service, Seven Bowen, the daughter of Sten and Amy Bowen, will be performing an arrangement she composed of “Carol of the Bells.” This sounds like quite the treat. Again, I’m so sorry I’ll miss this!

Second, the plans for the New Year’s Eve Dance are progressing. The Recreation Commission has the dessert table and decorations planned out. We’re even devising our own ball drop! I lived in New York City for 13 years and never went near Times Square to see that ball drop. Ours, I'll attend. Why? For several reasons, many of which also apply to you.

Staying in Reading to celebrate New Year’s Eve is a great alternative to driving somewhere. You’ll be home before 1am (the event ends at 12:30). You won’t have to worry about revelers who drink and drive. And you’ll be able to start the New Year off with other members of your community in your own town. There are so many wins in that paragraph, I’ve lost count!

Tickets are available through a member of the Recreation Commission. They are Joe Braun at 203-313-1468, Stephen D’Agostino at 802-484-5425, Lisa Kaija at 802-952-8395, or Lisa Morrison at 802-952-1011.

Happy Birthday to Rhonda Wilkins-Hickey (December 23).

Merry Christmas, Reading! I hope it’s a day full of love and happiness.

That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!

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