Why volunteer at the Open Cupboard Food Pantry

To a person, Open Cupboard Pantry and Thrift Shop volunteers will tell you they find the work satisfying and rewarding.  Many of our dedicated volunteers are retirees who decided it was time for them to “give back” to their community.

Sandy Weber of Annandale

I started volunteering at the Open Cupboard Thrift shop in 2017. A long time volunteer mentioned to me that they were looking for someone to sell some of their better items on eBay. As a long time eBay seller, that sounded like the job for me. We receive many high quality donations at the thrift shop; I evaluate and research them for potential value, the goal being to maximize return for the thrift shop and food pantry. I enjoy helping to value the items, and get the best prices possible for them. We ship items all over the world! In addition to maintaining our online presence, I also volunteer as a cashier, receiver, and pricer. We have been able to increase thrift shop revenue, thus providing more funds to the food pantry. This work is immensely rewarding to me, we are truly helping people in our community. In my work life, I always wanted to do something more meaningful. Now, in my retirement, The Open Cupboard has provided that meaning for me. I am grateful to be a part of it.

Patti D. of Pittstown

I’ve been volunteering for several years at Open Cupboard in Clinton at both the intake desk in the food pantry and as a cashier in the thrift shop. My primary role in the pantry is to welcome our clients, assist with placing food orders, schedule appointments, and provide reminders about paperwork and special client events. But beyond that, I endeavor to serve and support our clients with empathy and kindness. Sometimes a new client will come in feeling anxious, uncertain, and maybe even a bit defeated. A warm hello, genuine smile, and a “we’re here to help” can always make a difference. And sometimes it’s a long-time client who suffered a series of unimaginable hardships and has been dealt yet another blow who just needs someone to listen with an open heart and to truly see them that has meaningful impact. Yes, we provide food, but I believe our volunteers provide more than that, and our clients are also much more as well.

In the last year or so, it’s been exciting to see the pantry evolve from an index card record system to an efficient, intuitive database and also from a paper and pencil calendar to an online scheduling system with sends appointment reminders, gives our clients the autonomy and flexibility to manage their appointments, and offers them the option to save time by placing orders online. And for our clients who are not as comfortable with technology, no worries, I’m always happy to sit with you and assist with placing orders using our tablet ‘menus’. Additionally, one of the great features of the pantry is our client shopping area. It’s like a small grocery store with a variety of options beyond just the everyday staples we also supply. This ‘market’ has shelves filled with everything from amazing local fresh vegetables, breads and pastries, cake mixes, spices, snacks, cleaning supplies, health and beauty products, and even pet food. I enjoy stocking and arranging these shelves so I’m able to point out the special items that I know will bring a smile to my Tuesday morning clients.

Finally, working the cash register in the thrift store also gives me the opportunity to thank all of our loyal bargain-hunting shoppers. I am beyond grateful to our thrift customers because they make it possible for us to lift up our neighbors in not one, but two counties now. Every purchase these customers make, no matter how big or small, supports our mission to feed and provide resources to our neighbors who truly need it. We couldn’t do any of this without our thrift customers or the numerous volunteers who I’ve come to know as friends over these last few years.

Elaine Skarl of Clinton Township

Elaine joined the Open Cupboard volunteer rolls right after it moved to the Clinton location in 2009. “For 35 years, I commuted to New York City,” she said. “I couldn’t do anything because I had a long day. Once I retired, I decided it was time to start giving back. That’s when I went over to the pantry and volunteered.” Elaine started with Wednesday mornings, and soon added Friday evenings, and more recently started coming in Saturday mornings as well. “I’ve been putting client information into the new automated system we’re setting up,” she said. “That’s almost done, and then it will just be a matter of keeping it current. People move, families change, so we’re always updating.”

The system went live in January 2021, and Elaine wrote procedures for all the volunteers who work with clients as they come in, prepare orders, put out fresh foods on pantry days, straighten shelves at the end of the night, and discard out-of-date items. Her procedures also cover taking in donated food – weighing it, placing it on the proper shelves, or stacking it to be shelved during another shift. “We can have four, five, six people coming in with donations, including church and scout food drives,” she said. “They can come in with 700, 800, 900 pounds of stuff.” In her work life, Elaine ran the purchasing department for an international Wall Street firm, so “this kind of follows suit.” “My very first job with the company right out of college was writing procedures,” she said, “so I’ve come full circle – after all these years, I’m writing procedures again.”

Elaine said she would “definitely recommend” volunteering for the food pantry and thrift shop. “It makes you feel very good,” she said. “You know the people coming into the pantry are there because they need to be. You’re helping them and their family. Some people coming in are living on a very small Social Security check every month. I don’t know how they do it, but they do. There’s a family where the husband was in a serious accident at work, and Worker’s Compensation hadn’t come through yet. They needed help with food because they’ve got little children. Some of the stories are kind of sad, but they keep up a brave front and do what they have to do.”

Chris Voorhees of Clinton Township

My name is Chris. I worked at the Hunterdon Medical Center for 47 years. I had a busy and challenging job. When I retired 4 years ago, I needed to find something to keep active. A co-worker had told me about her work at the Open Cupboard Food Pantry & Thrift Shop. After a simple application, tour, and interview, I began volunteering 2 days a week. I have met wonderful people and made many new friends. My job is in the receiving department of the thrift shop. We accept clothing, shoes, household items, and linens. We sort things for resale in the store. It is amazing to see the different items donated. Every time I sort a pair of shoes, jeans, blouse, etc., I think, “That’s another $4 or $5 to help purchase food for our community.” All the money from the thrift shop directly supports the food pantry. I am so thankful to see the generosity and support from the community. Being a volunteer gives me purpose and keeps me active. I love this job!

We need you. Your less-fortunate neighbors need you.
This is your opportunity to help your community.

As a first step, just fill out an application.


The Washington Basket is open, by appointment only, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 9am to 12pm, and Thursday from 4pm to 7pm.

Open Cupboard Food Pantry is currently located in the Hunterdon Health and Wellness Center, by appointment only, Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30am to 12:30pm, and Wednesday from 4:30pm to 6:30pm.

Visit us on  Facebook for the most up-to-date days and hours that we’re open.