NORTHWEST CONNECTICUT — Denise Butwill of Litchfield volunteered with her church’s food pantry until they were forced to close due to Covid-19 concerns. She then approached Deirdre Houlihan DiCara, executive director of FISH (Friends in Service to Humanity of Northwest Connecticut), a long-time non-profit that provides food and shelter, to assess the current needs for other local non-profits.
Denise, a children’s librarian, said, “The project is important to me because I want to help provide food to those that don’t have enough to eat and I truly want to support the non-profit workers that have been feeding people through the pandemic. This project is a way to stay flexible and direct help quickly to where it is needed most, which in turn will accomplish both goals.”
After consultating with members of the NWCT Food Collaborative, it was decided to begin with FISH in Torrington, The Open Door Soup Kitchen in Winsted, New Opportunities and Friendly Hands Food bank, both in Torrington, since these organizations had seen a spike in the need since the pandemic, with many people facing unemployment and the potential of losing their homes. It is expected that the demand will continue to grow in the months ahead, and other pantries and soup kitchens may be added.
George Noujaim, chef and owner of Noujaim’s Mediterranean Bistro in Winsted, had already been providing 50 to 60 meals to Winsted individuals facing food insecurity during the pandemic, and was helping FISH twice a week. When he had to close his Bistro, he donated to several food pantries in northwest Connecticut, and was termed “an everyday hero” in one article. He said “Nothing makes me happier than giving — that is how I was raised in Lebanon.” He readily agreed to be the food purchaser
for the new project called Feed Your Neighbor NWCT.
When Greg Brisco, CEO of the Torrington YMCA, signed on as the third member, he agreed to handle the monetary donations so these funds could be used to purchase food at wholesale prices. It was agreed the committee would communicate with the chosen organizations to provide the food most needed, usually fresh and perishable items.
The Feed Your Neighbor NWCT committee will continue to hold discussions with the NWCT Food Collaborative for further input and guidance. Denise Butwill said, “Both groups are also reaching out to area residents in the communities to help ensure that their neighbors do not go hungry during this time of trial.”
FISH distributed 113,841 meals last year and expects that amount to substantially increase. The Open Door Soup Kitchen distributes meals to go and is supported only by community donations. New Opportunities is the only agency distributing food with a bilingual staff and has seen an increase in Spanish speakers. Friendly Hands Food Bank also serves the communities of Goshen, Litchfield, Northfield, Morris, Harwinton, Bantam and Thomaston and thanks to a grant, they are providing nearly 23,000 meals a month.
Dylan Mello, Northwest region missionary with the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, was asked by Denise Butwill to help spread the word to churches. He said, “I’m very excited about this project. Denise has spearheaded this necessary work in collaboration with the local community and has brought forth ideas early on during this time of pandemics on how to address the increase of food insecurity. In my role, I hope to continue to spread the word throughout the 28 Episcopal churches in the Northwest Region of Connecticut through my interactions and newsletters. The region has a food security group that meets routinely and this development falls in right in line with its mission. My prayer is that awareness and growth for Feed Your Neighbor NWCT continues to blossom.”
For more details, please contact Denise Butwill at 860-567-2035 or visit www.nwcty.org/feed-your-neighbor-nwct/. Monetary donations may be made through the Northwest Connecticut YMCA website www.nwcty.org or mail a check payable to YMCA with Feed Your Neighbor on the memo line, and mail to YMCA, 259 Prospect Street, Torrington, CT 06790. Donors may also choose a specific community — Torrington, Winsted or Canaan — by adding that to the memo line as well.