YARMOUTH — For many families in town, the Yarmouth Food Pantry has become a staple.
Along with the comfort of receiving food each month, patrons have also come to rely on being assisted by the pantry’s many volunteers.
After the new year, though, the pantry will lose its most familiar face.
Sue Rowe, who has been managing the pantry for the past 10 years, will be stepping down at the end of December. She said after the holidays are over the role will be passed on to someone else so she can focus on her health.
“It’s nothing serious, but it gave me a wake-up call about how much time and energy I’m putting into the pantry,” Rowe said.
Rowe, who is a volunteer, said she usually spends about 20 hours a week doing work for the pantry, which is in the First Parish Congregational Church on Main Street. Other volunteers, though, said Rowe actually dedicates at least 40 hours a week to the job.
“She’s tireless,” pantry volunteer Mel Berghuis said. “She puts in way more hours than anyone knows.”
Although the pantry has 50 volunteers, Rowe does a little bit of everything. Her duties include meeting with the pantry’s steering committee, acquiring food and shelving it, scheduling volunteer shifts, and assisting pantry customers.
Rowe’s willingness to do as much as she can for the pantry is what has made her a great manager, Berghuis said.
“In terms of leadership, she really spans the gaps between going to a meeting with town leaders… she can do that equally well as stocking shelves and working with customers,” he said. “She runs the gamut.”
Rowe, who has helped grow the pantry from 15 families a month 10 years ago to over 70 families a month, said she’s enjoyed the work. She acknowledged, however, that it’s been difficult.
“It’s been a fabulous experience for me, but I think now it’s time to have a team doing this,” she said.
Before she leaves, Rowe would like to fill three roles at the pantry, two of which will be new positions. The first role will hers, the pantry’s general manager. The other two roles will be a resource manager, who will be responsible for acquiring food, and a liaison who will work with customers and volunteers.
“I really have faith that people will come forward,” Rowe said. “This town is very generous with their time and resources.”
So far, one person, a long-time volunteer, has stepped forward to be the manager. Rowe said the steering committee will meet over the coming weeks to discuss whether the person is the right fit for the role.
Whoever takes over Rowe’s role needs to know how to work well with people, she said.
“I think they need to be welcoming to people – volunteers and customers – and they need to be able to delegate to people,” she said. “People will come forward to help if you just ask.”
Rowe said after some time away from the pantry she hopes to come back and do some volunteering because she would “be missing it if I don’t.” The thing Rowe said she’ll miss the most is the people she interacts with each week.
“One of the most satisfying aspects of this for me is the people,” she said. “Not just the volunteers, but the customers. That’ll leave a big hole for me.”
Over the past 10 years many families have come through the pantry, and Rowe said she’s gotten to know them well.
“I know who will be the first person in line every Friday and what she’ll need,” Rowe said. “I know there’s one guy who needs pumpernickel bread and chunky peanut butter each week. I’ve gotten to know these people, their needs, and their families.”
One thing running the pantry has taught Rowe is that many people in Yarmouth aren’t aware that there’s a need for a pantry.
“For me, it’s an eye-opener as to how many people in an affluent town are really living on the edge,” she said. “It’s also an eyeopener to me how many people in this town are not aware of that.”
Pantry volunteer Kathy Moreau said Rowe’s compassion for those less fortunate has made her a great leader.
“She cares so much about the people who come here and their needs,” Moreau said. “She will be sorely missed.”
Aside from resting and tending to her health, Rowe said she’s not yet sure how she’ll spend her time. She said she’ll miss the pantry, but is excited for what’s next.
“(The food pantry) has been such a huge part of my life and such a satisfying part for my life,” Rowe said. “Now I need to think of the next venture to fill that need in myself.”
Sue Rowe, manager of the Yarmouth Food Pantry, will be stepping down at the end of the year after 10 years in the volunteer position.