The last thing you might expect to hear at a food pantry is show tunes.
But clients who come to the Bread of Life Food Pantry at in Rumford on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month can hear that and more as they wait for their numbers to be called.
Thomas "Jose" Santos, who referred a woman in need to the pantry and stayed on as a volunteer, keeps people entertained with music and karaoke.
“It makes the time pass much faster,” said Janet Bache, co-coordinator of the pantry.
The pantry is the result of the combined efforts of six East Providence congregations: Newman, , , , and .
Bache said the project started in late 2008 when clergy from the churches got together with laypeople and talked about ways the churches could help the community. There had been a food bank in the East Providence Community Center, but it had closed.
The Bread of Life Food Pantry opened in April of 2009 and has now entered its third year of operation, Bache said. Organizers see a lot of people who Bache describes as “working poor.”
“It is definitely supplementing the other assistance that they may get,” Bache said.
Typically, the pantry serves between 175 to 200 households, which translates into about 500 to 600 people per month, Bache said.
“You hear the phrase ‘I never thought I would find myself at a food pantry,’” Bache said.
“And I’m sorry I’m here,” added co-coordinator Nancy Banaczuk said.
The pantry is a member of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, and buys 60 percent of its food from there, then gets 20 percent from donations and 20 percent at Price Rite, Bache said.
The pantry provides non-perishable items such as canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, cereal, chili, rice, beans, soup, chili and tuna. And in the summer, the pantry receives produce from the community garden at Church of the Epiphany.
More than 100 volunteers have helped out at the pantry, ranging from youth groups to seniors.
“We haven’t sought anyone out,” Banaczuk said. “Everyone is sharing the talents that they can bring to the table.”
Parishioners from the churches pitch in, as do many community groups, which Bache describes as "contagious energy."
"We'll talk about needing something, and Janet will get a call from the Lion's Club saying, 'we've got five people looking for something to do,'" Banaczuk said.
As for the volunteers, they’ve appreciated the opportunity to get to know people from other churches who they didn’t know before.
Bache feels like she’s gotten more out of the experience than some of the clients she’s assisted.
“There’s usually a nice buzz to the evening,” Bache said. “It’s kind of like old friends getting together.”