Rejoicing in Our Present: Caring Cupboard

Views: 1

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

~ Matthew 25:34-35, 37, 40

As shown in these verses, caring for the needs of those around us is a core element of our Christian faith. Brewster Baptist Church has been actively serving these needs in our community for the last 40 years through our Caring Cupboard food pantry.

In 1984, Connie Washburn, wife of one of the retired ministers, attended the Board of Missions meeting and asked about what we were doing about hunger in Boston. After she left, the board members asked themselves, “Why Boston? Surely there must be hunger right here on Cape Cod.”

Kay Walker
Kay Walker

Under the direction of Florence Korb, the Board took several months to study the issue and found that anyone who needed help had to go to Hyannis because all the agencies were located there.

They decided to start “The Caring Cupboard” under the leadership of Helen Dalton with the help of Kay Walker (pictured left, who became a board member and eventual president of the newly formed Lower Cape Outreach Council), following the example of the small pantry just started in the basement of the Eastham United Methodist Church.

At that time, they collected grocery items and cash donations from the people of BBC for emergency relief. In addition, seven families were given Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets and 15 children received toys, many donated by the children of the BBC Sunday School. 

The Caring Cupboard answered requests for emergency assistance, and, in all, aided 74 people during the last three months of 1984. It was supported by several groups within BBC and worked in conjunction with the Lower Cape Outreach Council.

Initially, supplies were stocked in one of the sexton’s long, thin closets that could only handle one person at a time. Many of the older BBC members could not get to the store, so they would give Kay Walker money on Sundays. Since there were no pockets in her choir robe, she would tuck the money in her hymnal. Later, they opted for special donation envelopes in the pews using a design created by George Robbins.

While writing the Caring Cupboard history, Kay Walker remembered a time when they assisted a pregnant single mother who was escaping abuse. The church members pitched in to furnish her apartment and stock her food supplies while providing emotional support during a devastating time. 

The mission of the Caring Cupboard continued through efforts of BBC members and increasing support of the Lower Cape Outreach Council.

In 1986, the Caring Cupboard supplied 19 Thanksgiving baskets of food to Brewster families and 26 Christmas baskets. The Christmas baskets included a gift and piece of clothing for each child. Support was provided by BBC Sunday School children and the Brewster Women’s Club, as well as dedicated individuals, including Sherrie Strum (Chairperson), Dot Claver, Kay Walker, and Barbara Ivers.

Howie and Sherrie Strum took over leadership in 1986. Their son, Mark Strum, remembers his mother filling the orders and his father delivering them in his pickup truck. Howie had to use town maps and often sought out homes at the end of the old dirt cartways. Mark carries on their legacy serving in the Caring Cupboard today and says he feels a personal reward making a difference for people in need.

The Strums continued to lead this ministry until 1994, when they passed the torch to Al and Lois Behrer.

Al and Lois ran the pantry for the next 18 years, with at times minimal help, making sure food was available five days per week and helping in the design process of the 2001 expansion to create the area we have today behind the Sanctuary, providing a more private space to help individuals as they enter the food pantry.

In 2010, Wayne and Eileen Johnston answered Pastor Doug’s call for additional pantry help. 

Since 2012, Wayne has served as the leader of the Caring Cupboard, with a great team of about 20 dedicated people.

Due to the pandemic, serving days were reduced to Mondays and Thursdays.

In 2023, it had 923 visits and distributed 2,302 bags of food –more than a 70% increase in the number of visits and a 50% increase in the amount of food given away in 2022. So far, the 2024 level of need has stayed about level with 2023.

Food is provided by the Boston Food Bank, Cumberland Farms (set up by the Boston Food Bank), generous donations by BBC members, and support from our Mission and Outreach Ministry and Deacon Ministry.

Other items, such as paper products and detergents, often must be purchased. Eligible recipients are screened by Lower Cape Outreach and must be Brewster residents who meet the income requirements, or BBC attendees.

In the last year, the Caring Cupboard has served 103 family units, 40 individuals over age 65, 111 adults aged 18 to 65, and 76 children, for a total of 227 people. Also, Lower Cape Outreach Council has monthly sessions with nurses and nutritionists who take blood pressure and blood sugar readings and help counsel individuals who may need assistance in these areas.

Share online