March 2020
Beyond the Red Doors

Neighbor to Neighbor

Throughout its history, Neighbor to Neighbor, a secular, independent, non-profit organization located on the campus of Christ Episcopal Church, Greenwich, has been keenly focused on an often unnoticed and underserved portion of the community. Neighbor to Neighbor began in 1975 in the basement of Christ Episcopal Church when a group of compassionate people started collecting gently used clothing, linens, towels and household items and distributing them to those in need. Food was also provided on an emergency basis.

In 1984, responding to the increasing cost of living in town, the Greenwich Department of Social Services asked Neighbor to Neighbor to initiate a weekly food distribution program for Greenwich families in need of significant assistance. That led to a new program where volunteers packed bags with food items for three meals for three days for each member of the families served.

Evolving to meet client needs, Neighbor to Neighbor opened a "Client Choice" Food Pantry in September 2005, one of only a few operating in the state of Connecticut, and a model for food pantries in neighboring towns. Clients now have the opportunity to choose their nutritious food with the aid of a shopping list that provides quantity guidelines, based on the number of people in their families.

Hunger is easy to miss

Hunger is a silent epidemic. Every community is home to people who struggle with hunger, in different ways, with various solutions. According to Feeding America, 1 in 9 people or 37 million people face hunger in the United States today, including more than 11 million children and nearly 5.4 million seniors.

Outsiders may think Greenwich is an affluent town, a bedroom community of Wall Street. But in fact, it is a diverse, international blend of people from all economic levels. Hunger and food insecurity impacts people throughout town. Historically, Greenwich residents have been, and continue to be, generous and philanthropic. They are responsive to the needs of others, but with busy schedules and bustling families, helping residents understand those needs can be challenging. In a community like Greenwich, the existence of wealth translates into a higher cost of living, making it that much harder for some people to meet basic needs like shelter and food.

As of October 1, 2019, 19.8% of Greenwich Public School students qualify for Free or Reduced Lunch benefits (or 1,794 students). Under Connecticut State regulations, students qualify for these benefits if family income is below federally specified levels, which vary, according to the number of children in the family. Those classified as ALICE (asset-limited, income-constrained employed people) have jobs, but still face significant challenges, such as paying for necessities like food, shelter, transportation and health care, while still above eligibility guidelines for many state subsidies. Close to 9,000 residents are in need and qualify for Town Services. Some families are forced to choose between food and medical care. Providing proper nutrition is important for emotional and physical health and can have a ripple effect in schools and in our town.

Services expand in response to need

Today, Neighbor to Neighbor offers three distinct food programs as well as a clothing program. The primary program provides eligible Greenwich residents with a free weekly supplement of food for three days for each family member. Also, a one-time emergency food supply is available to residents of neighboring towns. The third food program is the weekly Summer Supplement, available to eligible Greenwich students to help bridge the gap during the summer months when school-supplied free or reduced-price meals are not available. Clothing, linens and small household items are available by appointment in the Clothing Room to eligible residents.

This year, groceries distributed through Neighbor to Neighbor enabled clients to prepare 390,000 meals, including over 500 turkeys with all the trimmings at Thanksgiving. Last summer, the program provided breakfast and lunch to students who normally receive free or reduced lunch benefits at school and distributed more than 500 backpacks filled with school supplies in August. This past holiday season, Neighbor to Neighbor distributed nearly 1,000 new toys to families they serve.

From Christ Church’s basement to a center to serve the community

Celebrating new beginnings, Neighbor to Neighbor is building a new, ADA-compliant, energy efficient building, leased on the Christ Church Greenwich property, anticipating completion this year. “We are extremely grateful to Christ Church for the support in their building for so many years,” said Pam Kelly, Board Member and Co-Chair of the Building Committee. The new 6,300 square foot building will be a sunny, home-like building with easy access for both donors and clients. Because the building is no longer in the basement of the church, it is fresh, updated, and easier for donors and clients to access. “The friendly, welcoming architecture of the new Neighbor to Neighbor building has been designed to be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood,” Pam said. “We want to treat everyone with the utmost respect. That includes our neighbors, the environment, the church and our clients.”

Executive Director of Neighbor to Neighbor since December, 2019, Margaret Tjimos Goldberg, is an experienced administrator in the nonprofit sector. Bobbi Eggers is a public relations professional who has worked with several non-profits. Sue Bodson, president and founder of Emboss LLC, specializes in compatible, strategic partnerships between non-profits and businesses for the greater good of both.


This article is part of the March 2020 Vestry Papers issue on Beyond the Red Doors