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Pat Westlake


To celebrate the spirit of giving this holiday season, the students of St. James’ Harbor Country Day School’s Student Council conducted their annual food drive to benefit the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry. Over the course of two weeks, more than 500 pieces of nonperishable food items were collected. On Nov. 15, those donated items were then delivered to the Food Pantry by Student Council officers. 

As shared by Pat Westlake, the Director of the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry, “The Smithtown Food Pantry looks forward to welcoming the students from Harbor Country Day School – as their green bus pulls into our driveway we know it is filled with food that the students have collected. The smiling students have collected the food, sorted, and packed it. They now carry it into the pantry where it will be distributed to our neighbors who suer from food insecurity. The pantry relies solely on donations and Harbor Country Day School greatly helps us to fulll our mission of providing assistance to all who come to us. During October we estimate that we provided over 15,000 meals to our clients and we look forward to continuing our eorts as the holiday season approaches.”

The Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry has been serving Smithtown and the surrounding communities since it was founded in 1984. In 2021, the organization provided Thanksgiving dinner xings for close to 300 local families.

Harbor Country Day School Student Council Photo from HCDS

Once again, the students of St. James’ Harbor Country Day School’s Student Council conducted their annual spring food drive to benefit the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry. On March 24, more than 500 pieces of nonperishable food items, as well as a check for $98 raised via a St. Patrick’s ‘Dress-Down’ Day, were delivered to the Food Pantry.

As shared by Pat Westlake, the Director of the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a significant need for donated food and personal care items. Historically, those in need would simply visit the pantry to request items needed in their household. However, due to social-distancing requirements, families now ‘drive-through’ to receive pre-sorted packages of commonly-requested items. 

While it’s unfortunate that such a great need exists in the area, it’s fortunate that the surrounding communities have kept the pantry fairly well-stocked. In fact, although this was the second collection of this kind at Harbor this year, the Student Council matched the number of items donated during their first collection back in November.

“We are grateful for the support Harbor Country Day School has given us for the past 19-plus years. We always look forward to seeing the children’s smiling faces as they take time out of their busy school day to visit us,” said Westlake. 

“An integral member of our community for more than 60 years, Harbor is a perfect representation of the many wonderful ways we all rally together and lift each other up in times of need.”

Pat Westlake, executive director at the pantry, smiles surrounded by donations. Photo from Ted Ryan

By Ted Ryan

On March 4, 1984, the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry opened its doors for the first time, and it has served the community in full force ever since. For their support of residents in need, the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry is recognized as the Times Beacon News Media People of the Year.

The food pantry was established to assist the residents of Smithtown who need help feeding their families and is made up of seven churches within Smithtown: the Byzantine Church of the Resurrection, the First Presbyterian Church of Smithtown, the Smithtown United Methodist Church, St. Andrews Lutheran Church, St. James Episcopal Church, St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church and St. James Lutheran Church.

According to Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry Executive Coordinator Pat Westlake, it has only gotten more and more successful since its creation.

“They helped about 40 people that first year,” said Westlake. The number has grown each year as more and more people needed help.

The food pantry’s accomplishments are entirely based on the community’s largesse and support.

“People in town are very generous … everything is donated or we purchase it with donations that people give,” Westlake said. “Everyone here is a volunteer, no one gets paid … we depend on this community.”

Each of the seven churches has its own coordinator, and the churches rotate who is running the emergency food pantry every month. The coordinator from each church runs the daily operations and has at least three volunteers working every day.

The people who come to the food pantry go beyond just the poor. In Smithtown, the list of profiles of those who ask for food is longer and more diverse than one might expect.

“Most of the clients come when there’s a problem,” Westlake said. “They lose a job, they get downsized, there’s illness in the family, senior citizens taking in grandchildren, divorces. Most of our clients need a helping hand through that rough time, and that’s what we’re here for.”

“There are many more people in the community of Smithtown that need assistance than you would ever imagine.”

— Jean Kelly

With so much need from the community, there are many who rise to the challenge to give to the unfortunate.

During the Thanksgiving season of 2015, a man gave food to the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry. He opened his trunk to reveal more than $100 worth of food to be dropped off.

After thanking the man for the generous donation, Westlake said she ask for his name. “He replied, ‘Joe, just Joe.’ He wouldn’t give his last name.”

After asking what the food pantry was short on, Joe came back the next day with another trunk full of food as well as a dozen turkeys for the Thanksgiving season.

After Westlake thanked Joe for his generosity, he responded, “You helped me a couple of years ago and I always promised I’d pay back.”

It’s because of residents like Joe that the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry has been able to give to those in need for 32 years.

The food pantry has been a big help to the community, and local legislatures such as Smithtown Town Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) recognize its role.

“The Food Pantry is a most wonderful organization that does great work for those in need,” Vecchio said. “The pantry lives up to the perception that we should feed the hungry. I am proud of the fact that the pantry is part of our town.”

Jean Kelly, the coordinator at St. Thomas of Canterbury, supervises the food pantry every seventh month and said that people may be surprised how many Smithtown citizens are in need.

“There are many more people in the community of Smithtown that need assistance than you would ever imagine,” she said in a phone interview. ““If they do come in, many people cry; they’re embarrassed. But we try to make them feel comfortable, [we] don’t want them in any way to feel that they are in any way a burden to anyone.”

The Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry is located at 90 Edgewater Avenue in Smithtown. You can call 631-265-7676 to see what donations are most needed or if you need help feeding yourself or your family.