Bradley Food Pantry

History of the Bradley Food Pantry  

“How can I grow spiritually?” That question, in 1979, by St. James’ own Eleanor Pierson to her Rector Father Kenneth Gluckow, was the seed for the establishment of the Bradley Food Pantry. After completing a two year course at the National Institute for Lay Training, as recommended by the Rector, Eleanor then wanted to know how her training could bear fruit. Noting the increasing number of emergency requests for food, Father Gluckow observed that it would be easier and quicker to respond to such requests if there were to be a reserve supply of food on hand. In addition, he noted, St. James Church would be responding to Christ’s call to feed the hungry in our midst.

On October 7th 1982, St. James Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church of Bradley Beach opened Bradley Food Pantry in the Office building of St. James Church. The Pantry was housed in the kitchen of what had been the church rectory and bulk supplies were stored in the basement of the building. Shelves were installed and painted, and the Pantry was readied for operation by members of St. Martha’s Guild and the Vestry of St. James Church. Eleanor Pierson of St. James and Lauretta Conwell of United Methodist served as the first Coordinators for the Pantry. From the beginning, and continuing to this day, the commitment of the Pantry has been “to serve our neighbors in need, once a month, with emergency food for three days, with kindness, respect, and dignity for all clients”. During the first three months of operation in 1982, the food to stock the pantry shelves was obtained through cash donations and two in-gatherings of food held by St. James and one in-gathering of food held by United Methodist. Eleanor Pierson devoted many hours preparing requests for grants to acquire food and other supplies needed to run the Pantry effectively. That same year, Christy Polycandriotis (a St. James parishioner) won a St. James Country Fair raffle prize of $300.00 in Foodtown certificates and donated the prize to the Pantry which enabled the purchase of Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas hams for inclusion in holiday baskets. During the first year, the Pantry was open on Tuesday and Friday mornings and twenty-five volunteers worked on a rotating schedule. Emergency calls for help on the other days were answered by the Pantry Coordinators, Father Gluckow or Jane Moore the Parish secretary. More than forty calls for food and clothing were answered in those first three months of 1982.

In 1983, Ascension Roman Catholic Church of Bradley Beach joined St. James and United Methodist in supporting the Pantry. Through the Pantry, the supporting churches also participated in a Monmouth County Emergency Pantry Action Committee that was established to administer monies given to the County by the Federal Government for food and housing, provided through volunteer agencies. A sum of $75,000.00 was allotted for food to be made available without charge to the local food pantries and kitchens. This source for food was supplemented by the supporting churches, who continued to supply additional food products on a rotating monthly basis.

In 1984, thanks to a grant from the Hunger Task Force of the Diocese, the Pantry was able to obtain an upright freezer which was housed in the garage. Monetary gifts and food donations from Bradley Beach community organizations, the Shore Council of Churches, private sources and the three supporting churches enabled the Pantry to continue its operations. Christmas gifts were supplied that year by the Asbury Park Junior Women’s Club. During 1984, the Pantry was able to meet the needs of 972 calls for emergency food, thanks to the work of 40 volunteers. In 1985, the Pantry extended its opening hours to five days a week in order to serve the food and clothing needs of an increasing number of clients.

In 1989, the Pantry received a new freezer from the Boniface Food Center of Spring Lake, a part of the Community Food Center of Newark. In 1991 the number of calls for emergency food grew to 5,794, and the continued ability of the Pantry to serve the needs of clients was seriously threatened. That crisis was averted thanks to a donation of $1,500.00 from St. James Church.

In 1992, West Grove Methodist Church of Neptune, after having conducted food in-gatherings for a number of years, formally became the fourth supporting church for the Pantry.

On January 1st 1993, after having served as the first Director of the Pantry for over ten years, Eleanor Pierson stepped down from that post and Helen MacAllister from Ascension Church agreed to serve as the Acting Director. Inez Lee became the Coordinator for St. James, and Eleanor Pierson continued to support the Pantry by serving as a volunteer coordinator. Eleanor Pierson, who was born on September 19th, 1914, continued to serve as the inspirational leader of the Pantry until her passing from this earth, at the golden age of 100 years, on December 12th, 2014. She is missed by all who knew her.

Richard Brugger, from St. James Church, was named Director of the Pantry on July 1st 1994. During that same year, St. James Church was informed of a generous contribution made by the estate of Bea Shafer, a parishioner of St. James who also had worked as a Pantry volunteer. Her bequest was specifically earmarked for outreach and to feed the hungry. That donation was supplemented by monies obtained through a special funding drive managed by Eleanor Pierson (which raised approximately 40% of the total required funding) to enable St. James to construct the “Bea Shafer Outreach Center.”

The Bea Shafer Outreach Center, which is located behind the current St. James Church Office, provides both a meeting place for the various outreach programs supported by St. James and a proper home for the Pantry. After raising the required funding and completing the architectural plans, the proposed Site Plan for the Bea Shafer Outreach Center, and the descriptions of the required associated variances, were submitted to the Bradley Beach Planning Board on November 15th 1995. After four public hearings and planning board discussions, the Site Plan and associated variances were approved by the Planning Board on June 6th 1996, and memorialized on July 15th 1996. The necessary Building Permits were obtained on October 22nd 1997. Construction of the Bea Shafer Outreach Center, which included a handicap ramp for access to the building, was successfully completed in July 1998. The Outreach Center was constructed under the direction of Ron Humer – then a Warden of St. James Church and a professional in the construction business. Through his efforts, St. James Church was able to secure good prices for the required building materials and the subcontractor work needed to complete the various aspects of the construction. Mr. Humer also was able to obtain a donation of shelving for food storage in the basement of the Pantry from a local supermarket. Mr. Humer’s foresight and vision of the future operations of the Pantry also led him to identify the need for construction of a separate entrance to the basement to enable food products to be moved efficiently into the Pantry for storage prior to distribution. A top-of-the-line dumb-waiter, donated to the Pantry by the McCrane Foundation, was included in the basic construction of the Bea Shafer Outreach Center to facilitate movement of food products from the storage area in the basement to the distribution area on the main level – a capability very much appreciated by the volunteers!

After almost twenty (20) years of service, Mr. Richard Brugger made the decision to resign from his position as Director of the Pantry. During the time he served in that capacity, Mr. Brugger gained the respect and admiration of the neighboring communities, clients served, and supporting volunteers by skillfully guiding the operations and continued development of the programs of the Pantry. Despite the inevitable difficulties faced during the day-to-day operations of the Pantry, Rich and his wife Mary Ann always maintained a pleasant and confident demeanor, and clearly demonstrated their firm commitment to fulfilling the Pantry’s mission: “to serve our neighbors in need, once a month, with emergency food for three days, with kindness, respect, and dignity for all clients.” Even after Rich was no longer its Director, he continued his dedicated support for the Pantry by assisting the new Director Mrs. Linda Curtiss, who was appointed Director with effect from May 1st 2014, as she resolved operational issues, and by continuing to contribute various volunteer services which enabled the Pantry to successfully continue its mission. Mrs. Curtiss of St. James Church in Bradley Beach, and her husband Geoff, had served as volunteers at the Pantry prior to Mrs. Curtiss’ acceptance of the new responsibilities as Director of the Pantry.

In August 2015, thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Curtiss in her capacity as Director of the Pantry, a walk-in freezer was procured and installed in the basement of the Bea Shafer Outreach Center. This additional and crucial capability will enable the Pantry to more effectively and more efficiently serve the needs of their clients. Several years later a walk-in refrigerator was purchased, providing necessary storage for the fresh produce that is now a daily offering.

Currently, in its 41st year, the Pantry serves clients from Bradley Beach, Asbury Park, Neptune, Neptune City, and surrounding towns solely through the support of 150 dedicated volunteers and the generosity of the community. During the Year 2022 the number of families coming to the Pantry for assistance nearly doubled, from an average of 43 a day in January to 76 per day in the later months of the year. In addition, the Pantry provided over 600 Thanksgiving meals (each including a turkey and all the trimmings) and 550 Christmas holiday meals (again, each including a turkey or ham) as well as toys for over 1100 children in conjunction with volunteers and teens from St. James Episcopal Church.

The Pantry supplies currently come from a variety of sources:

The Pantry operates under the guidance and direction of an Advisory Board comprised of lead volunteers, representatives of St. James Church, and community members, as a mission of the St. James Church.

Pantry News and Important Information

Bishop Sally's response to the newspaper stories on the Bradley Food Pantry Closing Its Doors at 605 Fourth Ave on May 17th: "I am disappointed with the way the food pantry has used media attention, half-truths, and even outright misrepresentations to apply pressure on the church to make accommodations in their favor at the expense of the congregation and community. It has been a long and difficult process and I know that both the neighborhood and the congregation have been harmed by this.” 

St. James Letter to Congregation & Community, April 2024.pdf
St. James letter to Linda, April 2024 (1).pdf