A lot has changed over the last twenty years! We now offer our clients 100% choice of a wide variety of non-perishable foods, fresh produce, breads, eggs, cheese, butter, frozen meats, paper products, personal care and feminine hygiene products, diapers, wipes, and baby food, as well as a consistent offering of gluten-free foods for our clients with this dietary restriction. As the demographics of our clientele has changed, we have added bilingual volunteers who speak Spanish and Portuguese to improve our ability to communicate with all of our clients and to help them feel at ease as they shop.
In 2022, we had 16,880 client visits, and we distributed close to 164,000 lbs. of food and household goods. This includes our Weekend Grocery Program in collaboration with the Medway Public Schools. Through this program, interested families in the schools can submit a customized order form each week to select the full-sized food and personal care items their family needs, and then these items are packed and made ready for pick-up or delivery every Thursday.
The Medway Village Food Pantry was founded in 2002 by Bellingham resident, Marilyn Conley, and it all started in two cabinets in the basement of the Medway Village Church (MVC).
In 2002, Marilyn rotated off of the MVC Hospitality Committee but wanted to find a way that she could stay involved and serve the community. Marilyn is a woman of faith and distinctly remembers the moment she was standing in the kitchen in the church basement and received the message that she should start a food pantry. She had no experience with food pantries but was determined to create one and to have it succeed. She connected with other local food pantries for advice, got the word out through schools and local newspapers, stocked one cabinet in the kitchen, and waited for her first client. After waiting patiently for many weeks, one person came to use the food pantry, and Marilyn was so excited that she gave the person everything in the cabinet! Over time and with careful grant funding, the pantry added a refrigerator and a freezer in addition to building the cabinets still in use today in order to expand our food offerings. We also became a partner agency of the Greater Boston Food Bank in 2004, which has been a critical element in our successful operations over the years.
Fast forward to 2013, when Susan Dietrich and her son Aidan came to the church on a Sunday morning to drop off donations that Aidan had requested for his 8th birthday in lieu of gifts. Susan didn’t know of any food pantries in the area, so she googled “Food Pantry Medway” and the first result was the Medway Village Church Food Pantry. As Susan and Aidan quietly looked around the narthex of the church that Sunday morning, Marilyn was the first person who greeted them and accepted the donations. Shortly after this first meeting, the entire Dietrich family - Susan, her husband Martin, and both of their sons, Liam and Aidan - began volunteering together on Saturday mornings to help restock the shelves. In 2016, Susan became the Assistant Director of the Food Pantry, and in August 2017, Marilyn asked Susan if she would be interested in taking over as Director of the Food Pantry. With guidance and support from Marilyn, who remained an integral part of the team, Susan took over the Director responsibilities.
In June 2018, the Food Pantry switched its hours of operation from 3:45-4:45 pm on Wednesday afternoons to Saturday mornings from 9:00-10:00 am. This change led to a steady growth in the number of clients able to visit the pantry, which continued until March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill. In order to protect volunteers and clients, the pantry transitioned to a completely outdoor operation in the span of just a few days. All of the regular volunteers were asked to stay home, and clients drove up to the pantry and waited in their cars. Marty and Aidan took client orders on a checklist while Susan and Liam packed all the orders and brought them outside to people’s cars. This continued for six weeks with just the Dietrich family working together to minimize potential exposure. Susan kept the shelves stocked by shopping during the week at Walmart, Market Basket, Shaw’s, and BJ’s for the items that were suddenly unavailable from the Greater Boston Food Bank, and our community rallied around the Food Pantry with tremendous support.
From March through August 2020, the pantry operated completely outdoors, gradually adding small numbers of additional volunteers to assist with the elevated volume. In September 2020, the pantry resumed indoor operations under our current model, which allows clients to sign in and shop for shelf stable foods, paper goods, toiletries, cleaners, personal hygiene products, produce, frozen meats, eggs, dairy, bread, and bakery items. Throughout the transition, we continued to offer clients the dignity of 100% choice (no pre-packed bags), a principle that has been foundational to our pantry since its earliest days in the church kitchen cabinet.