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Topsfield Food Pantry Needs Help To Keep Going - May. 06, 2013

TOPSFIELD, Maine (WQDY NEWS)- The Topsfield Food pantry is at a crossroads -- Routes 1 and 6.

And they're also at another crossroads -- they need a new home and the financial help to keep the food pantry going.

Established about 25 years ago, the food pantry is located in the rather cold basement of the Topsfield Congregational Church.

ABOVE: Diana and Charles Harriman -WQDY NEWS PHOTO

Charles and Diana Harriman have run the Topsfield Food Pantry that serves 125 clients for six years going on seven.

The pantry serves communities from Princeton to Waite, Talmadge, Topsfield, Kossuth, Carroll, Vanceboro, Lambert Lake, Codyville, Danforth, Brookton and Forest City.   

"We'd done really well when we first came in but the last couple of years have been very, very slow. We do have Topsfield here give us money at November and December. We have one church -- the Princeton Congregational Church -- they are very faithful in giving us money every other week. That helps pay for the lights and other things," said Diana Harriman.

The basement where the pantry is located is clean -- but quite cold.

The couple said it's great in the summer but any other time of year, it's a tough place to work in.

"We try to come bundled up when it's really cold. Clients complain but  I just say 'get your food and go.' That's all we can say," Diana said.

Easy access is also an issue because of a steep set of stairs one must walk down very carefully due to the low clearance. Numerous signs posted in the basement area warn "caution duck your head -- pipes above."

"We have a lot of older people -- and with our stairs -- they have a hard time coming down. There's quite a few tall people and they keep hitting their heads (despite the signs), " Diana said.

ABOVE: One of many signs warning food pantry clients to "duck" due to the low-hanging ducts and pipes-WQDY NEWS PHOTO

And Charles added, "The gentleman who does our boxing for us is quite tall -- and he has hit his head just about everywhere here."

There is, however, enough floor space for clients to use one of the eight grocery carts to go around to find various items in the food pantry -- always needing to be mindful to duck their heads because of the low pipes and duct work.

The only cure for that?  

"We would actually like to get out of here," Diana Harriman said.  

ABOVE: Steep stairs down and a "low bridge" greet clients at the Topsfield Food Pantry-WQDY NEWS PHOTO

"We have a lot of clients and I'm afraid they're going to fall down those stairs and and there's a cement block right there (a support for the cellar wall that protrudes at the bottom of the steps). It makes me nervous seeing people coming down and up those stairs. We hope and pray someday we might get enough we can do something to move out of here," Diana said. "If somebody wanted to donate a building, that would be wonderful."

There are other obstacles facing the Topsfield Food Pantry -- monetary donations are needed because Charles and Diana Harriman are the ones keeping the place going.

"If we don't get any funds or anything we're just going to have to close the building because my husband and I just can't do no more," Diana said. "The money's getting down."

Charles Harriman is a retiree.

"Right at the moment, he (Charles) has put out over $1,400 of his own money," Diana said.

"And that's for going and getting supplies at Good Shepherd," Charles added.

Good Shepherd being the largest hunger relief organization in Maine, providing surplus and purchased food to more than 600 nonprofit organizations throughout the state.

"If it wasn't for Good Shepherd in Brewer, we wouldn't be able to survive at all, " Charles said.

"They've been excellent. They have helped us in many ways. We had a truck come in here a couple of weeks ago and it was all free. That was a blessing. It was just like Christmas," Diana laughed.

Charles and Diana Harriman also expressed gratitude to the other food pantries and some local businesses and groups around Washington County for their help with monetary and food donations.

But the couple still needs to find a way to keep the Topsfield Food Pantry operational.

"The money situation would be the most helpful, because we can buy food through Good Shepherd so much cheaper than anyone else can," said Charles.

"We can't go to a grocery store because we just don't have the money for it. With Good Shepherd, usually it's 16 cents a pound. Whatever donations come in, we do use it and go there. It goes a long ways," Diana said.

If you'd like to help the Topsfield Food pantry with a monetary donation or help them find a new location, here's the address:

Topsfield Food Pantry
P.O. Box 66,
Topsfield, ME 04490

or call Charles or Diana Harriman at 207-796-2747. If there is no one home, please leave a message!