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Grace Episcopal Church in New Jersey reopens food pantry after 2-month closure

New Jersey food pantry reopens after a 2-month closure
New Jersey food pantry reopens after a 2-month closure 01:59

MERCHANTVILLE, N.J. (CBS) – A food pantry in Camden County has resumed operations after a two-month closure. The pantry at Grace Episcopal Church in Merchantville will now be open again each Wednesday.

The pantry was forced to close temporarily in March. Because so many people drove to the church each Wednesday to pick up free groceries, traffic poured into the street from the church property, disrupting traffic and blocking driveways. It frustrated neighbors who complained to Merchantville Township.

Church volunteers worked with the township to develop some new safety measures. Linda Purves, a volunteer, said before opening Wednesday morning, pantry workers performed a walkthrough to ensure smooth operations.

"We're not allowing cars to line up before a certain time," Purves said. "We have signs out. We have cones out."

The church also increased the number of volunteers assigned to control traffic. They also are decreasing weekly volume. Now, those needing groceries will be assigned a week to come and pick up their food, every other week.

Mayor Ted Brennan believes this new plan will work and says the goal was to reopen the pantry.

"Grace Episcopal was very receptive," Brennan said. "We asked them to come up with some plans. They did."

Rosemary Pericles, who has volunteered at the pantry since it began, couldn't be happier to serve the community again. Her son, John Thomas Pericles, started the food pantry 49 years ago as his Eagle Scout project.

"Everyone needs food," Rosemary Pericles said. "There's a tremendous need, and I'm so glad it's open."

On Wednesday, clients expressed appreciation.

"Because if it wasn't for [these volunteers], people would be out here starving," Joseph Johnson, a pantry client, said. "You all bless us."

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