ORR volunteers serve food and kindness at Wareham pantry

Apr 2, 2022

WAREHAM — Paige Fuller doesn’t sleep in on Saturday mornings.

Instead, the 17-year-old Old Rochester Regional High School junior wakes early to visit Damien’s Pantry in Wareham.

At the pantry, the Marion teen helps pack and organize food to be distributed to people who need a little extra support.

But she does more than serve as an individual volunteer. She also organizes a schedule of volunteers from her school. 

Her classmates responded immediately, she reported. “Immediately, an abundance of students were interested. I was confronted with what felt like 100 emails.’’

The pantry has become “an extremely popular volunteering opportunity within the entire student body.”

Her efforts at the pantry began through her involvement with the Community Service Learning Club, which provides community service opportunities for ORR students.

But she hoped for more. “I wished that there were more consistent and scheduled opportunities that would be of access to students all year long,’’ she said.

So after doing some research, she heard about Damien’s Pantry and learned they were happy to have help from students. Fuller subsequently started organizing a weekly schedule for student volunteers on Saturdays. 

Their efforts make a difference, said Jackie Arsenault, executive director of Damien’s Pantry.

“The kids that come to volunteer are a welcome presence at the pantry. It’s nice to have the youth and the muscle,’’ Arsenault said. “They always jump right in and help wherever it’s needed.’’

Arsenault works to ensure the students understand how important their efforts are. “I try to give them jobs where they get to interact with the guests that visit so they really get the full impact of how satisfying volunteering can be,’’ she said. 

The pantry is open Thursday and Saturday mornings and provides food to anyone in the area who seeks assistance. More than 1,000 people are served each month. 

Volunteering provides two benefits for teens, Arsenault said. “Not only does it help us distribute food but it also instills in their character the need to continue to volunteer throughout their lives,’’ she said. 

The experience can be eye-opening, she believes. “Most of the kids are quite surprised by how many families are in need of help and it’s a good lesson to see another side of life. ‘’

She hopes this will “touch their heart and make them want to make the world a better place. ‘’

Not all the teen volunteers are from ORR. 

Wareham High School junior Alex Burdick likes to help and to be active. “I hate being still,’’ he said.

That’s not a problem at the busy pantry, where food must be  readied for distribution and bags need to be filled in an assembly-line process. 

“It’s overall a really great experience,’’ he said.

He hopes more teens will participate. “I hope they walk away with the same great feeling,’’ he said.

To donate, visit damiensfoodpantry.org or call (508) 295-3486.