CLIFFSIDE PARK, NJ -- Despite a dwindling supply of food pantry donations, a borough church hopes to help hundreds of families through the winter holiday season.
Deborah Bonura, who has operated a housekeeping service the past 30 years, took over as director of the three-year-old pantry at Epiphany Church in August. She has two sets of volunteers who collect and shelve items and then fill bags for those in need.
"When towns are closing their food pantries and welfare departments, people hear Epiphany and come here," said Bonura, looking at empty shelves in the church basement.
Some come from Hudson County, she said.
The church pantry started with a few families that soon grew to more than a dozen.
Now, it serve 200 families who register anonymously, list each member in need, then come to the church to pick up stock -- provided they supply two forms of identification.
"We have one woman with five children, no job, no husband," Bonura noted.
Church officials don't depend on government assistance but on the kindness of parishoners. These include the American Legion, VFW, Knights of Columbus and religious organizations.
They're hoping to draw attention from the nearby Winston Towers and other area high rises and district schools to help with food drives.
The preference is non-perishable items -- pasta, canned soup and select toiletries, among them -- unless it is a Thanksgiving turkey or holiday ham.
"We don't discriminate against race, creed or beliefs," Bonura said. "And we take help wherever it comes from."
This is the first year that the pantry provided school supplies.
During an invitation-only event, recipients discreetly sorted through items, selecting men's, women's and children's items.
Some "got very emotional. They started to cry," said church secretary Sarah Romano, who also helps manage pantry registrants. "They were very appreciative of it."
"It's important to give back," Bonura said. "No one should go without food."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.