St. Peter’s by-the-Sea has a long tradition of providing food for neighbors who have trouble feeding their families. Four years ago, a small operation was transformed into the Community Market, which is open every Friday from 4:00 to 6:00pm to all who need food assistance. Tables are stacked with canned goods, frozen food, fresh produce and a selection of personal care items for guests to select from. Limits are only placed on the few items the Market has trouble stocking: such as milk, meat, and toilet paper. Folks may return every week. A posted sign simply states, “Take what you need and remember the needs of others.”
“Remembering the needs of others” is the hallmark of the Community Market. In 2015 the Community Market served over 1,744 household visits, representing over 3,768 individuals. 60 families received turkeys and groceries to prepare their Thanksgiving dinners and 73 children received gifts of winter coats and/or boots at Christmas. Special times of the year are noted by offering special items. A cold weather gift bag filled with tea, honey, lemon, chicken soup, and tissues was distributed at the beginning of January. Plastic pumpkins with candy at Halloween, a heart healthy bag at Valentine’s, flowers and brunch items at Easter are all intended as concrete examples of showing love and compassion to those who are suffering from hard times. While the number of guests is significant in this seaside resort town, they do not tell the real story of people and families struggling to pay their bills and have nutritious food to eat. The Community Market is located three blocks from the Towers, the iconic symbol of Narragansett. The neighborhood at the ocean’s edge is filled with million dollar homes and in the summer welcomes thousands of fun seeking beachcombers and restaurant goers. The affluence is deceiving as nestled among the trim hedges and professional landscaping are pockets of affordable housing. A number of older and disabled Market guests, who have no transportation, walk to the Market. Many car pool. Some use public transportation and one rides a bicycle every week. In the summer he is covered in sweat and in the winter icicles hang from his beard and clothing. He is limited to what he can carry in a backpack and communicates with sign language and writing. After an accident in the summer of 2014, volunteers raised a collection and bought him a new bicycle.
The Market guests span the ages. There are elderly, retired folks trying to stretch their pension dollars. One grandmother cares for three grandchildren and has recently opened her door and heart to care for the children of a relative. When mothers come with babies in strollers, every effort is made to supply them with diapers and baby wipes, which are a tremendous strain on precarious family budgets. One guest is a cook with three children who works in a local restaurant. Others suffer from illnesses or disabilities, which prevent them from being employed. Every week sees new families added to the rolls. The doors are open to all who need assistance without regard to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, or ability/disability.
Currently approximately 40 volunteers staff the Community Market. Some are retired. Some rush to the Market after work to lend a hand and others rearrange work schedules to be available. Others are high school students. It is not uncommon for guests to help out. The Market welcomes volunteers from throughout the community. One of the Market goals is to increase awareness of issues of food insecurity in South County. One Friday, six members of a college fraternity joined the volunteers and the help of Boy Scouts and grade school students has been greatly appreciated. At the Thanksgiving Market whole families jumped in to lend a hand. In addition, a number of local businesses and organizations have aided in the work. Crazy Burger, Belmont Market, Dollar Tree, Narragansett Dock Works, the Women’s Club of South County, Narragansett Boy Scout Troops 1 & 2, and the Dunes Club Christmas in July event have all supported the efforts of the Market. Whether it’s a volunteer, a financial supporter, or the neighbor who donates a can of beans all are united in remembering the needs of others. And each has discovered, that no matter what is happening elsewhere in the world that there is a great gift in helping those in need in the local community. The Community Market receives no aid from the state or federal governments.
All are welcome to visit and see the Market in action on any Friday from 4 to 6pm at Saint Peters by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 72 Central Street, Narragansett. Or for more information call 401-783-4623 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.