In the Spotlight

RPU Volunteers Spotlight Hunger Heroes 2015Helping Hands Come in Threes

(Pictured left to right: Tycon Spence, Joe Cymerys and George Pfuetzner)

George Pfuetzner, a retired Connecticut Department of Transportation employee and Windsor resident, said it was Joe Cymerys who turned him on to volunteering with Foodshare. He, in turn, encouraged Tycon Spence, his neighbor, to volunteer. Read More +

“We met at St. Gabriel’s at a blood drive,” says Pfuetzner, “and soon afterward Joe and I were giving out sandwiches to the homeless in Bushnell Park. Joe gets everyone involved.”

Joe is better known as Joe the Barber, made famous by Steve Hartman’s On the Road series on CBS. As the program explained, Joe started out giving sandwiches to homeless people, then began giving them free haircuts and a hug. It was Joe’s van that carried Foodshare donations to Windsor’s food bank before the food bank purchased a truck for the volunteers to use. He participated in the Walk Against Hunger until he was too old to walk it and now helps out with the deliveries at the Windsor Food Bank. Foodshare has given him awards, he says, “But I don’t do it for that.”

Today, with Pfuetzner and Spence he is participating in Foodshare’s Retail Pickup Program, where volunteers use their vehicles to collect food donations from grocery stores and take that food directly to nearby food pantries and community kitchens. One day last spring, Joe and Pfuetzner were unloading fresh produce, meats and dry goods from boxes loaded onto the truck at the East Windsor Walmart and taking them to the freezers in the food bank. “It’s almost like a part-time job,” said Spence.

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of volunteers like these, the retail program has added millions of meals worth of food to the amounts that Foodshare delivers.

—Photos and writing by Alexis Zinkerman.

2015 Holly Harken spotlight volunteer RPUHolly Harken: Volunteer Extraordinaire

It all started with a Foodshare fundraising letter that Holly Harken received in the mail. She didn’t have the money to give at that time but she noticed at the end of the letter that Foodshare was looking for volunteers, and she called to learn more about opportunities. Read More +

The job that particularly appealed to her was Retail Pickup, in which volunteers collect food from stores and bring it to nearby food pantries and community kitchens. After completing her training, she started picking up food at the Target store in her home town of New Britain. Her first pickup of food was 600 pounds, which she loaded into her Suburu Legacy wagon and delivered it to the New Britain Human Resources Agency in a park on Osgood Avenue. She later started making deliveries from the New Britain Price Rite, which she still does to this day.

“I knew there was a need,” Holly says. “I had time and a vehicle. I couldn’t donate money to help but I could donate time. I’m bringing food into the pantry that would otherwise be thrown away. People are getting meat, eggs, produce.”

Holly makes the deliveries and stays to help shelve the food at the Osgood pantry. According to pantry coordinator Nate Brickhouse, HRA Osgood has gotten help from some significant local people and organizations, such as Mayor Erin Stewart, who donated 90 pounds of food, and Central Connecticut University, which donated 120 pounds of food.

Holly, who won the 2009 letters to the editor contest in the Hartford Courant, wrote a letter last August about keeping the HRA Osgood open. Today, as it stands, HRA Osgood is open only on Saturdays due to budget cuts, making the food Holly delivers all the more important.

When she is not volunteering, Harken enjoys her two dogs: a miniature Schnauzer and a toy fox terrier. “There is a food pantry in every town and anyone can get involved to end hunger,” says Harken.