Meet Eunice Mommens
Eunice Mommens captivated Machias Rotarians with her passion for the Machias Food Pantry. Beginning with her own experiences as one of eleven children in what she later realized was an occasionally food insecure family, Eunice explained why she is so committed to helping others in Washington County. Eunice recounted that in 1962 when she was in the 3rd grade, she had an experience that literally changed her life. She was in the kitchen with her mother when there was a knock at the backdoor. Standing on the steps was what her mother later described as a hobo. The man asked for something to eat so her mother told the man to take a seat on the step and that she would be right back. She first called her husband who was the pastor for a church in Rockford, North Dakota, and then she prepared sandwiches and coffee for both her husband and the hobo, who were now seated on the steps together. Both men were fed fried egg sandwiches and coffee while Eunice asked her mother to explain what was going on. Her mother said, “The man was homeless and riding the rails and that he had nothing to eat, so your father and I gave him something to eat.” This story fit perfectly with the quote Eunice Mommens used to begin her January 21, 2020, talk to the Machias Rotary Club – “Give your hands to serve, and your hearts to love.” – Mother Teresa
The talk continued with the history of the Machias Food Pantry from 30 years ago when Helen Vose and Jane Dean started the pantry in the Centre Congregational Church, serving 10 to 12 clients in the first year to 2019 when the food pantry served 340 clients representing 3,865 individual in 1844 households in 11 towns. This herculean effort is accomplished with only 37 volunteers whose average age is 68. Eunice went into the details of the food insecurity problem in Washington County with the following statistics: in 2017 22.4% of children and 15.1% of the total population of Washington County was food insecure. Although the Machias Food Pantry is not the only one in the county and not the only place someone can have a free meal, the need continues to grow for food assistance.
Eunice went into how this effort is carried out and where the food comes from. For example, she said the Machias Hannaford donated over 40,000 pounds of usable food last year. She said that additionally, the Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine, local churches and clubs, caring individuals, and the federal government provide the food or the means to procure the food for distribution, which is done every Monday by appointment beginning at 1PM. The appointment system has been in place for the past 8 months and has solved the queueing problems that had existed in the past.
Eunice, as the newly appointed manager of the Machias Food Pantry, explained the goals for the pantry going forward. She said there is a need to locate a new facility since the space so generously donated by the Centre Street Congregational Church for the past 30 years is just being stretched to the breaking point. Other priorities include establishing a “rainy day fund,” and recruiting more and especially younger volunteers. The current highly dedicated volunteer team is challenged with lifting the many heavy boxes and bags, which many of the elderly clients cannot carry to their car. Eunice would like to see groups commit to helping – especially the first Monday of the month. She said there would be a great relief if any group is willing to commit to just one session/year. Finally, the Rotarians presented Eunice with donations of a gift card and rolls of toilet paper since people using SNAP cannot buy paper products with that benefit, and everyone needs toilet paper.
Meet Gail Peters
I have lived in Downeast Maine since 2002. I attended a Lutheran Church prior to moving to ME. The Episcopal Church is in full communion with the Lutheran Church; so, it was a natural fit for me. In fact I had been studying to become a Lutheran pastor while living in Alexandria, VA. The nearest seminary was Virginia Theological Seminary an Episcopal school of theology in Alexandria. Virginia Theological Seminary worked with a consortium of schools including Gettysburg Seminary where I was technically enrolled. Church means family to me. It has always been my rock of support especially during my husband’s 35 years in the military with his many deployments. Even now, as I live far away from biological family members, I find St. Aidan’s to be a spirit lead family of brothers and sisters.