Fire puts community’s neediest at risk

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Volunteers load a delivery from Chester County Food Bank for storage.

A malfunction in a freezer at 4 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13 sparked a fire at the Kennett Food Cupboard. The damage from fire, soot and smoke forced Kennett Area Community Service, who runs the cupboard, to throw out half of their current inventory and close their doors.

Ann Williams brought all the canned goods in her house.

"We hope to open in 7-10 days,” said Leah Reynolds, executive director of KACS. The cupboard supplies qualified families with a week’s worth of food each month through their Healthy Options program. “We will give out a food box this week with a gift card to tide our clients over until we re-open.”

The cupboard served food to 1,124 people last month. The individuals and families live in the Avon Grove, Unionville-Chadds Ford and Kennett Consolidated school districts. Qualified families have incomes of less than or equal to 180 percent of the federal poverty level.

As word of the loss spread through the community, shelf-stable donations have begun to arrive, courtesy of people like Ann Williams of Traditions. “I’m the ‘bag lady’ there because my neighbors leave donations for the cupboard at my house and I deliver them.”

Volunteer Dennis Babcock is ready to accept donations to replenish the Food Cupboard's supplies.

Hearing about the fire, she grabbed what she could spare from her own kitchen and went to find out what else was needed. “I’m going to hang a list of volunteer needs at both our clubhouses,” she said. “There are so many kind people at Traditions who want to help.”

“We couldn’t do what we do here without volunteers,” Reynolds said between thanking donors for the bags and boxes they are bringing to the storage pod. “We need 60-75 volunteers every week to run the food cupboard.”

The labor-intensive nature of their venture is evident with every car that arrives. The stream of donations is managed by a combination of staff and volunteers. In addition to accepting donations from individuals, volunteers drive to stores each week and pick up the generous donations from local grocery stores and markets.

“Getting back on our feet will take all of us,” Reynolds said.

She recounted the kindness of the Chester County Food Bank, who sent over lunch for the volunteers and staff yesterday as they worked to take inventory and create reports required by the USDA inspectors before they can re-open.

Shelf-stable donations and $25 Giant gift card donations are gratefully being accepted at the pod in front of the Kennett Area Community Service offices. Volunteer needs are listed online and

About Karen Myers

Karen Myers lives in Pocopson Township and has written for several local publications. A strong supporter of our community, Karen has served on several non-profit boards, such as Pocopson Elementary PTO, The United Way of Southern Chester County, Chester County Art Association and Tick Tock Early Learning Center. She received her M.B.A. from the University of Delaware and worked in marketing and operations with a focus on banking.

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