Feeding the Hungry Along the Shoreline

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All our heartfelt thanks to those in our community who work so hard to help feed our neighbors in need.

  • Starbucks Donation

    Baristas at the Old Saybrook Starbucks presented SSKP volunteer Lindas Dillon with a $300 donation, ...

Stories of Giving

When I was a kid in San Marcos, Texas, I didn’t realize how much my family struggled to make ends meet. It wasn’t until I was a teenager, looking back, that I began to really understand.

JFoltzMy father, the Rev. James E. Folts, who later served as Bishop of West Texas, was an Episcopal priest, just as I am today. Growing up, our family lived in modest church-owned housing, along with my grandparents, who helped out while my parents were working. The main source of protein in the meals my grandmother cooked was venison. When we would pull in the driveway, it was my job to jump out of the car and open the garage door. It wasn’t unusual to be greeted by the sight of a deer, left hanging for us by a local hunter or rancher. My father became an adept butcher and I remember watching him break down the venison steaks and roasts to pack into the freezer. It took me years to realize what a blessing that gift of meat was to us. If those ranchers hadn’t kept us stocked in deer, we’d probably have been on food stamps.

I remember during school, my sister and I would get pulled from class and eat our lunch early. Then we’d work behind the cafeteria counter, helping prep and serve food to the other kids. At the time I didn’t think about why that was, but later I learned this was a program to provide us with free lunch in exchange for work.

On our family’s tight budget, there wasn’t much room for fresh produce. For years I thought I didn’t like vegetables, because the only kind we ate came out of a can. I hated the taste - I’d rather risk a spanking for not cleaning my plate than eat canned spinach.

After high school and college, I traveled to St. Bartholomew's Church in mid-town Manhattan, and for a year I worked there with volunteers to help the homeless, the hungry, the elderly and struggling families with young children. Quite a change from Texas, St. Bart’s was my first real experience with a ministry of providing emergency food, clothing and shelter.

Over the past 13 years serving as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex, I have been asked to join the SSKP Board several times. In 2016 the timing was right. Today I work with the rest of the Board, an entity that I liken to being the physician for SSKP - carefully examining and “taking the temperature” - making sure the agency is in good health.

If the Board is like a physician, then the volunteers, the guests, the pantries, and the soup kitchens are the heart. I wanted to connect more to that heart, so this year I’ve joined a meal site team at the Tuesday dinner at St. John’s, as well as volunteering once a month at the pantry in Old Lyme on Saturday mornings. At the pantry, I have been helping guests with their shopping carts as they leave and I enjoy helping them put their groceries in their cars. It kind of takes me back to the very first job I had as a teenager. Recently, I helped a mom who was struggling with several bags of food and two young kids. She asked me to watch over them as she brought her car around. As I helped her put the bags in the trunk, I was grateful for her trust in me, and for the overall feeling of family, community and caring that the pantry creates.

SSKP is one of the finest non-profits that I’ve ever been affiliated with - I have never seen one so professionally run. The bar is set very high - but together we always meet the need.
Why do you support SSKP? Every story of why we receive gifts of time, food and funds is unique. Recently Rev. Amy Hollis, our chair of the Board of Directors, shared her “Story of Why”:


“Having the vision to “see the need” has been with me since childhood.

My childhood church in Portland, Oregon was a host site of an interfaith program called Snowcap Community Charities, which is still there today. They collected food and clothing to distribute, as well as other help for people in need. I still remember the big Snowcap barrel right in the narthex when you walked into the church. Everyone would bring in cans or coats. Our pastor’s son used to say that he never knew if his coat would be hanging in his closet, because if his father saw a child who needed it, it would go into the barrel.

Once when I was helping out, my job was to put “Hunger Around the World” placemats on the table. I read about the tens of thousands of children who were dying of hunger worldwide, and I just couldn’t get over. I still can’t. The incomprehensible truth that this was happening left a sore spot in my heart that never left me, and it still makes me emotional. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to get involved. For me, seeing the numbers of how many were hurting, made the problem seem insurmountable. If I couldn’t solve it - how could I make a difference?

As an adult, when my family started attending The First Baptist Church in Essex, I became aware of SSKP. Shoreline Soup Kitchens is so integrated into their community. My very first connection was helping with the spring Postal Food Drive. Hundreds of pounds of food was brought to the church to be sorted and boxed up. Then my husband Scott and I started volunteering at the Monday meal site at Essex Baptist. For a while Scott was the Site Coordinator, too. Whenever a team needed help, we’d fill in. We also helped with the bread pick up at Colonial Market. After I was called to be the pastor at Winthrop Baptist Church, I became a member of the SSKP Board. I have a history of being involved, but I know there’s no one person that does it all.

Part of my passion is the awareness of the interconnectedness of everything. When ALICE is in need - I feel it. It hurts me if someone else is hurting. The more I do to help another person, the more I heal myself, and the more the world can heal. That connection we all have to each other is something not everyone recognizes, but the small things we do all have an effect, here and across the world.

SSKP is, for me, a beautiful expression of what we can accomplish when we work together. Because of all the volunteers, staff, and community support so many folks know where their next meal will come from. I am grateful for this organization that seeks to meet basic needs.”
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have generously supported The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries (SSKP) by donating food, as well as grant funding. In 2016, the Walmart Foundation’s grant of $25,000 was used to purchase fresh and non-perishable food, which was distributed weekly to residents in an 11-town region through SSKP’s five food pantries.

“The generous gifts of food and funds received from Walmart help assure that all our neighbors on the shoreline will know they can feed their families, even in times of economic struggle. With their grant of $25,000 last year, we were able to provide enough food for over 80,645 meals to those in need, and additional donated food was also greatly appreciated. Walmart’s long term commitment to our mission of providing food and fellowship makes a real difference in people’s lives on the shoreline, and we are grateful for their support,” said Patty Dowling, Executive Director of The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries.


Thank you Old Saybrook Rotary Club, and President Gerri Lewis, for the recent donation of $1,500!


Baristas at the Old Saybrook Starbucks presented SSKP volunteer Lindas Dillon with a $300 donation, proceeds from their 2nd Annual Holiday Ornament sale, featuring hand decorated coffee cup ornaments. Thank you, Starbucks! 


© 2015 Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries