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Food pantry filled, elderly clients scared to come out

The pandemic is keeping older clients from visiting a food pantry in Old Orchard Beach even though the need is great

OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine — At the food pantry at the United Methodist Church in Old Orchard Beach, the shelves are stocked, the freezers are full, and the tables are all covered with food, but the pantry is empty of the very people who can benefit from this bounty.

"People aren't coming because they're scared," said Pat Meserve, who runs the pantry along with a group of volunteers.

The clients are scared of getting sick, Meserve says. Most of their clients are older and are concerned about leaving their homes during the pandemic.

"They're afraid to come inside and be around other clients."

Meserve says they want their clients to know they are following CDC guidelines to keep people safe.

"We don't have a lot of people at the same time, to protect (people), that's very important."

While the pantry mostly serves the communities of Old Orchard Beach, Saco, Biddeford, and York County, organizers say the door is open to anyone because they know the need is great. 

Maine ranks 12th in the nation and first in New England for low food security.

"We pray every day because we are a church that people won't starve. We don't want that we want people to feel safe."

And they want people to feel welcome.

"We want to make people feel comfortable and at ease not say oh gee I'm so embarrassed to come here because this is a food pantry. No that is not who we are."

Credit: NCM

Meserve says whether it's stopping by for food or something from the pantry's clothes closet, volunteers are more than happy to help.

"We want you to be family, we want to help you."

Organizers are encouraging people who do come into the pantry to take extra food for any neighbors in need. 

The food pantry at the United Methodist Church in Old Orchard Beach is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 to 11 am.

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