Local nonprofit Wellington Cares is expanding its mission to support community residents age 65 or older with the addition of a food pantry.
“We started a nonperishable food pantry in response to what we saw as a need among many of our frail, elderly seniors, who have simply outlived their family and friends, and outlived their resources,” Executive Director Kathy Foster said. “Their monies are very diminished and, as a result, their lifestyles are.”
The food pantry was made possible through the donation of office space at Admiralty Home Health Care, located in the Lake Wellington Professional Centre at 12161 Ken Adams Way, Suite 170. Alan Bottorff, CEO of Admiralty Home Health Care, sits on Wellington Cares’ board.
The food pantry provides nonperishable food, as well as other home goods, such as cleaning supplies.
“If they are on government food cards, you cannot buy cleaning supplies, personal items like shampoo and conditioner or deodorant, only food products,” Foster said. “So, we found that they were making very tough choices, whether they had enough food to eat, whether they paid for their medicines, to get some very basic, simple needs like toilet paper, paper towels and laundry detergent. We felt that we could fill in that void by reaching out to the community.”
The idea of a food pantry came up at a Wellington Cares meeting last fall.
“During those meetings, our volunteers share what they observe in our participants’ homes when they go out and make calls,” Foster said. “The same issue kept coming up that people have such limited income and were making terrible choices… We felt that there had to be things that we could do to assist them.”
That’s when the Women of the Wellington Chamber became involved. “It just happened that two of our volunteers that day were from the Women of the Wellington Chamber,” Foster said, explaining that they agreed to help start the food bank.
That is exactly what happened, and the pantry became operational at the start of the new year.
The food pantry operates on an as-needed basis for its participants. The service is provided free of charge. The only requirements are that the participant be over the age of 65 and currently live in Wellington.
“It’s by request, because we have it specifically for our participants, who are involved with Wellington Cares, and our volunteers are the ones who tell us when they need to pick up supplies for our participants,” Foster said. “Many of our participants aren’t able to actually physically come to the food bank themselves, so we deliver it to them when we find there’s a need.”
This is not the first time that the Women of the Wellington Chamber has partnered with Wellington Cares, Chamber President Debbie Crompton said.
“Last year, our efforts with Wellington Cares were a little bit different. We actually delivered orchids to all of the seniors. They loved it. They liked talking because we personally delivered it to them, so we spoke to them, and then we brought them baskets at the end of the month,” Crompton said. “This year is something a little different. We went to that meeting, where they were throwing ideas around… That’s where the pantry came up. They were all discussing it, not only our women, but their volunteers as well.”
Both organizations are taking initiatives to help the elderly in Wellington.
“Sometimes their pride will not allow them to ask for things, and if we see that they need it, we’ll give it to them,” Crompton said.
Wellington Cares Volunteer Coordinator Diane Gutman answers phone calls involving donations and requests from participants. She does her best to meet all of their needs.
“We want to try to help people stay in their homes as long as possible, as safely as possible,” Gutman said. “For example, someone who doesn’t have the money to buy their own food, they’re not going to really be able to stay in their home; they’re going to wind up in the hospital. We try to help people in any way we can, non-medically.”
Seniors who are in need in the community have to make tough decisions every day.
“There have been individuals who have had to make that really difficult choice of, ‘Do I buy my medications this month, or do I buy my meals?’” Gutman said. “When an individual is on a regimented diet because of an illness, that’s very difficult to do, and Wellington Cares does not want people to have to sacrifice a healthy lifestyle.”
Through support from the Wellington Rotary Club, the food pantry will receive any food and supply donations received at the Rotary’s document shredding event on Saturday, April 8 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Wellington Municipal Complex (12300 W. Forest Hill Blvd.). For more information, visit www.wellingtoncaresorg.com.
“We are hoping that people bring food donations that we can deliver to Wellington Cares,” said Don Gross, vice president of the Wellington Rotary Club. “Kathy Foster has supported a lot of things that the Wellington Rotary has done in the past. Our goal is to help the Wellington community.”
Wellington Cares is going beyond the community and also looking to share its ideas with Palm Beach County to help seniors in need at the county level.
“We are in the process of working with several other municipalities that are interested in replicating the idea of Wellington Cares countywide,” Foster said. “We’re working with a couple of foundations to see if we can develop a pilot program to try and create a ‘Palm Beach County Cares.’”
Wellington Cares will also be partnering with the Wellington Community Foundation to celebrate the birthdays of its participants each month, starting in April. The foundation is arranging for a floral arrangement to be delivered to each participant on his or her birthday, and it will include a gift card to Publix, a gift card to the Mall at Wellington Green and a certificate for a free lunch at Gabriel’s Café & Grille.
“So many of these seniors have no one in their lives to acknowledge their special day, and I’m sure there will be many happy faces when this program starts this month,” Foster said.
To contact the food pantry, make a donation or become a participant, call (561) 568-8818. Visit www.wellingtoncaresorg.com for more information about the organization.