HONESDALE—Five clients from the Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Pocono Center kicked off the new year by assisting volunteers at the Wayne County Food Pantry on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017. The clients were set up along a table, assembly-line style, and tasked with packing various canned and dried goods into grocery bags set to be distributed form the Honesdale location on the following Tuesday, January 10th. In total, pantry coordinator Kathleen Chicoski expected around three hundred seventy-five bags to be prepared by the group.

The Devereux group was overseen by Admissions and Outreach Specialist Cindy Cartwright and Direct Support Professional Mike Ceci. Both were thrilled about having this opportunity for their clients. “I thought this would be a great thing for our group” said Cartwright.

To Cartwright, working in the food pantry reinforces many of things Devereux teaches their clients as part of their day training. In her own words, “They know how to pack, it's one of the skills we teach them. Once they get the sequencing, they will be fine.” Skills like teamwork, communication and following directions are just a few of the things reinforced by their volunteering experiences.

Ceci added to Cartwright's praises, stating “This is a good group...they're very willing to learn new things.”

This outreach project combined with Devereux's other volunteer work at places like the Park Street Kitchen & Café and the Pike County Meals on Wheels program are all designed to improve the employability of their clients by providing hands-on experience in professional situations.

The added benefit of working at the food pantry is that “it's good to teach [our clients] others need their help as well,” says Cartwright. She explained that the experience builds not only necessary life skills, but also empowers the clients to help others in reciprocation for the help they themselves receive.

Thinking back on the mutually beneficial outcome of her and Chicoski's serendipitous meeting, Cartwright mentioned “I like that we made the connection through the United Way.” Both parties seem optimistic in making Devereux's assistance at the food pantry a reoccurring event.

With five distribution locations across the whole of Wayne County, Chicoski is always looking for volunteer support to keep the pantries operating smoothly. Run exclusively by volunteers in teams of eight to twelve, each of the five pantries distributes food once per month to various numbers of families. The Honesdale site alone accounts for around three hundred twenty families each month.

While it draws support from government-donated foods, the WC Food Pantry also relies upon private donations to supplement its distributions.

Parties interested in donating or volunteering to help package or distribute foods should contact Wayne County Human Services at (570) 253-4646 or (570) 253-4262.

Additionally, families in need can register for the Food Pantry program by calling WC Human Services for an application. Folks seeking eligibility should be prepared to provide proof of residency, income, address, phone number, family names and township of residence.