For fifteen years, the food pantry at the South Shore YMCA Germantown Neighborhood Center has been a lifeline for local residents. That fact is truer now than ever before.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck Massachusetts in mid-March of 2020, many of our own neighbors now find themselves out of work and in need of food services, some for the first time in their lives. Before COVID-19, the SSYMCA Germantown Neighborhood Center food pantry distributed food to about 117 households each week, feeding approximately 246 people. Today, the need has more than tripled in just three months, and the food pantry now serves nearly 300 households, feeding about 905 people weekly. The lines grow longer each week, wrapping around the converted church building for blocks.
All year long, members of the community turn to the Y’s Germantown Neighborhood Center to seek support, socialize and participate in vital programs such as afterschool care, cooking classes, employment training, educational support, mentorships, and more. The heart and soul of this community center, what keeps it brimming with hope and positivity, are the donors, dedicated staff and volunteers who remain hard at work to serve the community in good times and bad.
For the past fifteen years, that legacy of service has continued to grow. This vibrant community center would not be the same warm, inviting, safe place without the hard work and contributions of dedicated volunteers who care deeply for our neighbors and help care for the space, including its vegetable gardens.
The Germantown Neighborhood Center flower and vegetable gardens have been cultivated and cared for by longtime Y supporter and volunteer, Paul Mollica, who has long treasured early mornings at the Center. Raised as a child of greenhouse owners, the retired bank executive has always loved working with plants and enjoys the beauty and rewards they can bring to us all. And so, he dedicates his volunteer time with the South Shore YMCA to maintaining the gardens each spring, summer and fall. These gardens are a true gift to the community, teaching local residents the value of sustainable, local gardening while providing fresh produce for the Center’s food pantry and teaching kitchen.
Recently, Mollica led a team of volunteers to plant this year’s flowers and vegetables. “I am thankful and humbled for the volunteers who worked the past two days to get the gardens planted,” he said. “We are trying to make the outside of the Germantown Neighborhood Center as inviting and caring as possible, to complement all the great things that are happening inside the four walls.”
For Kathy Quigley, Development Director for the South Shore YMCA, who oversaw the Center for years, the volunteer support and friendship of Mollica and others adds an important layer to the legacy being built at Germantown. “Paul is a true friend to the Y and the people in this community,” she said. “These wonderful gardens add beauty to our neighborhood, but more importantly they provide nourishment for our community, and a chance for our neighbors to learn how to grow their own food. In these difficult times, that can help feed a family facing extreme hardship and trauma.”
“I’ve been in social service work my whole life,” added Quigley, “and I have never seen anything like what we are going through now. We are so appreciative of people like Paul who help our center to thrive in these terrible times, and for all the donors, organizations and volunteers who are helping us to continue serving our community. When we are supported by volunteers like Paul, the Y can accomplish so much more to strengthen our communities together.”
To donate to the South Shore YMCA during this crisis, contact Mary Orne, firstname.lastname@example.org, 781-264-9453, or visit https://ssymca.org/stay-with-us to support the mission through a tax-deductible donation.
About the South Shore YMCA
The South Shore YMCA is a leading charitable organization dedicated to strengthening community. Since 1892, the Y has served communities across the South Shore of Massachusetts and beyond, engaging over 60,000 adults, children, families and seniors each day through membership, critical social services, and programs that support a healthy spirit, mind and body. The Y empowers everyone by ensuring access to resources, relationships and opportunities for all to learn, grow and thrive. By bringing together people from all backgrounds, the Y’s goal is to improve overall health and well-being, ignite youth empowerment and demonstrate the importance of connections throughout our community. To learn more about the South Shore YMCA and our causes, visit ssymca.org. The Better You Belongs Here.