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Smithtown Food Pantry

Photo from Town of Smithtown

Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim was joined by Town Clerk Vincent Puleo and Councilman Tom Lohmann on Thursday, to hand deliver a check to Pat Westlake at the Smithtown Food Pantry. The check for over $1600 was the result of a Battle of the Towns fundraiser organized by the Recreation Department back in March. Town employees and members of the public used the Kilter App in a 30 day fitness challenge against the Town of Riverhead. The proceeds from the event went to a cause of each Town’s choosing. The Town of Smithtown chose to donate proceeds to the Smithtown Food Pantry.

“I want to thank the Recreation Department, under the leadership of Tom McCaffery, for their unique team building and health conscious idea which not only got us in shape for the Summer, but did some genuine good in the community. This was a fantastic effort made by many Town employees and residents alike. I’m pleased to say that the money we raised for the Food Pantry will go towards major improvements which Pat Westlake has planned for this year,: said Supervisor Ed Wehrheim. “On a side note, I’d also like to commend Pat Westlake for her saintly efforts during the pandemic. Despite enormous heartbreak and the challenges which the pandemic caused for the food pantry, she made sure that families in need did not go without. Westlake went above and beyond during the holidays, and I commend her latest efforts to rebuild a better Food Pantry.”

The Kilter 30-day virtual fitness fundraising event was a competition between the Town of Riverhead and Town of Smithtown, New York. Town employees and Smithtown community members who registered for the event logged daily fitness routines from March 21st through April 19th, 2021. Healthy activities such as running, spinning, swimming, meditating, and even social activities like volunteering and advocacy were logged virtually, using the Kilter Fitness App each day. Points are earned every day for both personal and team scores. The Kilter Fitness App can be used for fundraising events like this or for personal health goals.

Due to NYS restrictions, residents mailed monetary donations and gift cards to Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry (Post Office Box 1663, Smithtown, NY 11787) in lieu of dropping off supplies and goods, during the pandemic. Under the leadership of Pat Westlake, the Food Pantry was able to deliver hundreds of grocery store gift cards on a regular basis to local families in need, giving them the independence of food shopping on their own. Westlake plans to keep this popular method alive by creating a shopping experience at the Food Pantry. Enspire Design Group (St. James, NY) Principal Architect & Founder Michael Morbillo has begun design plans to take the Smithtown Food Pantry into a phenomenal new era.

Community members who wish to help contribute to the renovations or donate to families in need can do so by mailing checks to Smithtown Food Pantry, 90 Edgewater Avenue, Smithtown, NY 11787 or via Post Office Box at PO Box 1663, Smithtown, NY 11787. For more information visit SmithtownFoodPantry.org.

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.