Although it’s a year-round operation, the Harrison Food Pantry has received a spike in money, food and clothing donations during this holiday season.
At the Dec. 19 Town Council meeting, donations of more than $5,000 in checks were accepted to the pantry from various members and anonymous donors in the Harrison community.
“We can’t do it without the community at all,” said Nina Marraccini, Harrison’s director of community services. “The whole community supports the pantry, because the town does not give us any money.”
According to Marraccini, who has served as the director of community services for more than a decade, the spike in holiday donations goes with the theme of the season.
“Usually, everyone donates around this time, even though we run 12 months a year,” she said. “It’s the spirit of the holidays, and people want to help. It’s a feel-good time of the year, and I’m really happy that it happens.”
Despite the good intentions, even an organization like the food pantry wasn’t devoid of controversy. The pantry was the subject of scandal in 2011, when six employees were caught on camera stealing from the pantry following a two-month investigation by Harrison police. The six who were caught stealing food and clothes from the pantry faced petit larceny charges, and five accepted a plea to pay a fine. The sixth worker, Adam Straface, was found not guilty in April, 2012.
The incident ultimately had a positive effect, according to Marraccini, raising awareness of the pantry after which donations poured in.
“That was a really terrible thing to happen, but good came out of it,” she said. “It was a visibility factor, although not positive, that ended up having a positive result.”
Marraccini described an increase in need for the pantry to service the “working-poor” residents who actively work but can’t keep up with rising costs of living.
“The needs of families in need have grown,” Marraccini said. “People who wouldn’t necessarily need a food pantry need one once in a while.”
The Harrison Food Pantry is located at 140 Crotona Ave. and serves Harrison families in need year-round. Families are encouraged to apply with the pantry to see if they qualify for their services.
-Reporting by Phil Nobile