November 30, 2021

Pantry’s reverse Advent calendar gives back to community

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Jessamine Stone goes through a box of food Friday inside the Groton Community Food Pantry. Stone has organized a reverse Advent calendar so people can donate certain food items on certain days to be distributed to families in need.

GROTON — For some, a traditional part of the December holiday season leading up to Christmas includes Advent calendars, which can hold a small treat or gift for each day.

Jessamine Stone, the coordinator for the Groton Community Food Pantry, has given that concept a spin.

Instead of having people receive gifts, she has set up a reverse Advent calendar where residents can donate specific foods on certain days to be distributed in box sets to families on Dec. 19.

Stone, who started the reverse Advent calendar event last year, said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need for food donations in Groton.

“When COVID hit, I said, ‘Oh, we’re going to have to do something,’” she said.

Stone posted the calendar in late November on the Groton NY Community Facebook page asking for donations. She has since received enough food to prepare about 110 boxes for what she expects to be around 150 orders.

“It’s just a fun little way for the community to get involved,” she said.

Village Trustee Betty Conger said that due to the lack of grocery stores in the village, people who don’t have any means of transportation can end up without fresh meats and produce.

“We do have a food insufficiency here,” she said.

Between 75 to 85 people a week stop by the village’s library each Tuesday, where Conger is a volunteer, to get food donations. Additionally, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier normally gives away about 100 pounds of food to 175 families in the village once a month.

Conger thought programs like the reverse Advent calendar were an easy way for people who buy food and donate to help out those who couldn’t.

“The nice thing about it is it won’t cost a lot of money and most people can get the items while shopping for groceries,” she said.

Stone said she hopes the project can help provide Groton residents two things: peace of mind to families who aren’t sure if they can provide themselves with a holiday meal; and a sense of community spirit.

“My goal is to spread that holiday cheer in both directions,” she said. “People who don’t have that fear and those in the dire straits can both receive holiday cheer.”