Storehouse Project prepares to feed those in need this holiday

MILFORD — Dozens of people put on their running shoes last month, giving one local nonprofit quite a boost in its push to feed those suffering with food insecurity this Thanksgiving.

Sixty people ran or walked more than 4,000 miles throughout October, in turn raising $15,000 for the Storehouse Project’s 18th annual Thanksgiving Basket Giveaway — a feat that left the project’s executive director, the Rev. Todd Foster, in awe.

“We had planned to do a fall event, and with COVID, we weren’t sure if we were going to do a live or virtual fundraiser,” Foster said. “I came up with this virtual run/walk event, and I had no idea how many people I could get to participate or how much money we could raise doing it.

“I thought 1,000 miles in total was pretty ambitious, but 60 people got involved on 12 teams of five each, and they walked and ran for 4,250 miles from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31,” Foster added.

Foster said he was impressed they reached 4,250 miles, and because of that, they were able to raise $15,000.

“I was overjoyed because of grocery prices being what they are, and items in short supply, it just seemed like a good idea to have a war chest available,” he said.

“A good chunk of the $15,000 raised will go towards the Thanksgiving baskets, but I doubt all of it will,” he added. “We are trying to procure the remainder of what we need and how much of that we need to purchase versus donations is going to be down to the wire.”

The Storehouse Project, located at 192 Meadow St., in Milford, runs two food pantries, offering 150 to 300 hot meals on Monday nights, Foster said, and “we have a mobile pantry that runs from Bridgeport to New Haven, so if it all doesn't get spent on the Thanksgiving effort, then we have money to spend elsewhere.”

The walk/run event took place throughout October, and Foster said each team captain would send in their team miles each week.

“I had no idea how many people were going to participate, and it was slow going at first, and I thought it was going to be a bust,” Foster said. “But they kept on coming on, and I wound up with the 12 teams, and those individuals were serious about raising some funds, and they did a phenomenal job.”

This year, the Storehouse Project currently has 700 turkeys ready to go, but Foster said to reach the 1,000-basket goal, the push is on to get more turkeys.

“We are short about 300 birds right now, but we got 700 accounted for right now,” Foster said. “We’ve actually done more than 1,000 the last couple of years, but given the shortage and difficulty procuring things, we decided to cap it at 1,000 this year. But if we can get them, we will give them.”

Foster said the project had to alter its distribution plans due to the pandemic.

“Because of COVID, we were trying to maintain social distancing and didn’t want a large number of people inside,” Foster said. “In previous years, until last year, people would park their cars, come inside, but last year we made it strictly drive-thru event. We are going to do the same thing this year because it was much more expeditious to do it that way, and I think beyond COVID, we will continue to do it that way.”

The Storehouse Project, Inc. was formed in 2002 as a small food pantry at Cornerstone Christian Center. It was started by Pastor Alfred Watts of Connecticut Foodshare and senior pastor at the church.

“When he came on to be the pastor of the church, one of the first things he did was to open the pantry because he wanted the church to be a blessing to the community,” Foster said. “It was a small office, but it has grown over the years.”

In October 2013, Storehouse Project, Inc., was incorporated as a 501(c)(3), and Foster said they have been able to assist many people, but they want to do more.

“We have enjoyed the position of just being able to meet people where they are, people who have been hurting during COVID, before COVID as and as we hopefully come to a winding down of COVID, people will still be hurting and in need of all the help we can give,” he said. “When we can help them supply their house with groceries, it frees up whatever money they do have to spend it on other necessities, but what we are looking to do right now is looking to go deeper and wider.”

Foster said Storehouse Project was approved for a grant to have an AmeriCorp Vista volunteer help in the organization.

“We have been approved for the grant, but I don’t think they will come on until the first of the year,” he said. “I’m tasking them with helping us to do research, leads analysis and finding how else we can help our clients. Giving them food is wonderful. But how can we walk with them better, escort them out of poverty, or how can we make their load lighter? We are looking how to improve our relationship with our volunteers, with our donors and with our clients.”