TOWNSEND -- Townsend Ecumenical Outreach is marking its 30th year of service to the community this year. The TEO provides a monthly basket of food to nearly 100 Townsend families in need.
In that time, TEO President Don Ouellette said the organization has never wavered from its mission to serve the community.
"I think we've had a tremendous impact on the community. There's no question that a lot of people would be struggling a lot worse than they are now without this food. I think we've been very much a mainstay in this community. We're one of the first places to get phone calls when people are in dire need," Ouellette said.
TEO volunteers celebrated the anniversary May 10 with a dinner. But after three decades, they remain focused on their original goal of helping those in need.
Ouellette said he believes TEO has one of the strongest food pantries in the state.
"We seem to have good budget control, lots of volunteers, lots of donations and we're able to keep this thing moving," he said.
The group has about 15 regular volunteers, but that number jumps up to 30 to 40 near the holidays. Ouellette said the TEO is always looking for new volunteers.
The food distribution program takes place one Saturday morning a month. Those interested in receiving food must fill out an application with proof of income and residence before being approved.
Families are given a certain number of cardboard boxes based on their family size and are able to fill them as much as they want. The TEO does not pre-package the food for distribution.
"They come in and get a pretty healthy selection of food," Ouellette said.
Volunteers also deliver food baskets to those who aren't able to come to TEO to get them.
Donations come from larger food banks, grocery stores and restaurants in the area. Each year, the local Boy Scouts, post office and schools contribute large amounts through fundraisers.
The North Middlesex Regional High School Community Garden program also donates food a few times a year.
TEO is in the process of developing a garden of its own this year as well. Eventually, Ouellette said, they are hoping to harvest tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and squash in their own backyard.
"We're trying to incorporate some sweat equity in here," he said.
The TEO also has a clothes closet that is open three days a week. While there are no prices on clothing items, the TEO does put out a donation box for those able to pay.
The clothes closet is open to those in surrounding towns as well.
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