CYO volunteers prepare bags of food to distribute to clients. Shown from left are, John Kilcoyne, St. Alphonsus Parish, Hopewell, and CYO staff members Asia Williams, Lisa Lewis and Beverly Taylor.
CYO volunteers prepare bags of food to distribute to clients. Shown from left are, John Kilcoyne, St. Alphonsus Parish, Hopewell, and CYO staff members Asia Williams, Lisa Lewis and Beverly Taylor.
A sunny, warm autumn day provided the backdrop for the festivities taking place at the Hamilton Township Bromley Neighborhood Center Oct 20. The staff, volunteers and clients connected with the Mercer County Catholic Youth Organization, along with civic officials, had gathered to mark the official opening of the CYO’s newly expanded food pantry.

PHOTO GALLERY: CYO celebrates food pantry expansion

Though the food pantry is located indoors, Tom Mladenetz, the CYO’s executive director, said a more celebratory event was planned to include an outdoor ribbon cutting ceremony with township councilman Anthony Carabelli and Fred Dumont, from the mayor’s administrative team in attendance. A disc jockey was on hand to provide music, and all food pantry patrons were given a complimentary lunch from a food truck that was brought in for the occasion. The patrons also received an extra supply of food, a $25 supermarket gift card and a pumpkin to decorate for Halloween. Patrons also had a chance to browse the free books that were on display.

“It’s a first-class pantry that gives us the ability to store much more food, accept many more donations and allow us to address food insecurity,” said Patrick Hardiman, director of the Bromley Center and the CYO’s Yardville Branch.

Hardiman explained the food pantry at the Bromley Center has operated since 2005 when Hamilton Township converted the old fire house located at the intersection of East State Street Ext. and Whitehead Road intro a community center. The CYO assumed management of the center in 2013, including the food pantry, that is now staffed by CYO and township employees and a few volunteers.

In 2017, the food pantry, which had been located on the second floor, was expanded from a small closet space to quadruple its size “when we started receiving more donations and more food than we needed to store and distribute,” Hardiman said.

Over the next few years, Hardiman said that since there had been a decline in the use of the computer lab that was in a large room on the first floor, the decision was made to relocate the food pantry there, making the food delivery and distribution that much “much easier.”  The larger room allows the staff to accept store much more food until it’s distributed, he said, then noted the computer lab was moved to another part of the building.

Hardiman said the food pantry is open Tuesday and Thursday mornings and afternoons and about 90 families are served each month. In all there are about 190 registered families all of whom are Hamilton Township residents who meet certain eligibility and income requirements. In addition to a monthly supply of food, there are many occasions when the staff can distribute gift cards to local grocery stores.

While the main source for the food comes from the State Food Bank in Vineland, Hardiman said, “We are also blessed to have many individual donors and groups” including banks, churches, businesses, schools and grant monies that help supplement the pantry, he said.

“It is working out very well,” Hardiman said of the expanded food pantry.”

As Beverly Taylor, a CYO staff member for 12 years, prepared bags of food to distribute to clients, she commented that the expansion of the food pantry “allows us to do more for more people.

“And you never know who is going to need help,” she said.