Feeding the Hungry—Mind, Body and Spirit
By Susan Tirante
Ken Holzberg and Tom Kopfensteiner, owners of Stonewood Farm, and Cheryl and Doug Giles of Walbridge Farm had a vision. They wanted to feed the hungry. First Harvest Pantry at Lyall Memorial Federated Church in Millbrook was their vision, and First Harvest means exactly that: the first harvest of the day of the best vegetables from the garden of Stonewood Farm. These amazing farmers wanted everyone who came to the pantry to have the best, to know that they are important and to know that someone they may never meet cares. They were intent on feeding the hungry—mind, body and spirit.
The First Harvest Pantry opened on May 7, 2016. Ken Holzberg showed up at Lyall Memorial Federated Church at 8:30 a.m. with a car full of vegetables, his yellow lab Gracie and a smile as big as all outdoors. Right behind him was Cheryl Giles, her SUV filled with choice cuts of meats from the Walbridge Farm store, along with yogurt, maple syrup, honey and lots of fresh loaves of bread. They made the space warm and inviting with a checkered tablecloth and handwritten blackboard signs bearing the words, “Welcome All.” The farmers were seeing their vision come to fruition; however, they never did meet all the people they touched. All the people who “paid it forward” because of their kindness and generosity. The hearts they touched, forever changed…mine included. It is that story that needs to be told.
First Harvest Pantry began feeding many hungry people. Those in need would ask, “Is this really for anyone?” The motto was take what you need, but remember your neighbor. Suddenly, food began appearing—unexplained, without fanfare. Fresh vegetables, yogurt and cheeses, blueberries, mint and lemon balm from a woman named Lu’s herb garden. There were people I had known for many years who used the pantry. Irene would come and get food to take back to the seniors at the Church Alliance in Millbrook. Irene fed many people at her table over the years. I know—my Dad was her neighbor and a recipient of her kindness. (Sadly, Irene passed in January. Godspeed Irene.) The pantry fed couples, a single mom with two children, seniors who haven’t had an increase in their Social Security checks, the needy and the less fortunate. My favorite story is about Scott. It was Scott’s first time at the pantry, and he could barely speak, having recently had mouth surgery. I asked if he would like some yogurt. His eyes lit up and he shook his head, saying, “I love yogurt!” A woman who also used the pantry overheard our conversation and said, “Yogurt?” Scott turned to her and handed her his container, saying, “Here, would you like this one?” Hearts touched.
Ken, Tom, Cheryl and Doug’s vision for feeding the hungry will continue at Lyall Memorial Federated Church again this year, staffed by volunteers. But the impact these four selfless individuals have made, and will continue to make in this community, cannot be measured. They are everything that is good and right in the world today.