Feeding the Hungry Along the Shoreline

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All our heartfelt thanks to those in our community who work so hard to help feed our neighbors in need.

At the Westbrook Pantry scores of volunteers were busy putting out tables full of fresh vegetables, canned soups, bags of beans, pasta, fresh bread and frozen meat, but there was an especially large crowd gathered around the egg table. Everyone was writing a “Happy 90th Birthday” message on a poster-sized photo of Charlie Adams, who was arriving any minute to do what he had done for over 20 years – hand out the fresh eggs. When Charlie arrived, ready to go to work, he was greeted with a chorus of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”, many hugs and handshakes, a giant birthday cake, and the signed birthday poster. “If I’d have known there was going to be such a fuss, I’d have come earlier!” he quipped.

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Being a pantry volunteer for over 20 years is just one of Charlie Adam’s many accomplishments. The large photo showed Charlie in 1958, in his white Navy dress uniform, aboard the USS Shangri-La (CVA-38), a 27,000 ton aircraft carrier. Known as the “Egg Man” to his pantry friends, he was “Commander Adams” when he retired from the Navy in 1970, after 28 years, serving in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. While aboard the Shangri-La, one of his primary duties was Carrier Approach Control, where he ensured that planes successfully landed on the flight deck, especially during storms or at night.

His first experience working with eggs was as a 9 year old boy, when his father took over the family farm in Missouri in 1933. “Our plows were drawn by horses back then”, he recalled. “We worked from sunrise to sunset, growing corn, oats, wheat and barley. I had to milk the cows before daybreak.  In high school I wanted to be on the football team, but my Dad said my chores would ‘still be waiting for me’. So after football practice I’d walk the six miles home, and do my chores. At night I did my homework by a kerosene lamp.”

A resident of Westbrook since 1971, he’s a parishioner at St. Marks Church, the host site for the Westbrook Pantry. Charlie remembers the early days, even before the pantry became part of Shoreline Soup Kitchens. In those days, volunteers filled grocery bags which were handed out to those in need. There were small, medium, large and extra-large bags, depending on family size. Today at the pantry guests can choose from a variety of foods depending on their family’s size, needs and preferences.

Charlie also spoke of years past at his “egg station”, when the fresh eggs were delivered in bulk pallets, instead of individual cartons. All week long Charlie and his fellow volunteers would have to collect empty egg containers from their neighbors, and then come early to the pantry to fill them. Although this all had to be done by hand, Charlie proudly claimed, “We never broke a single egg.”

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of The Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries. “Our volunteers make our mission come alive every day, and have for the last 25 years,” said Patty Dowling, Executive Director. “Week in and week out, their kindness, commitment, and care assure that those in need have a place to turn.  Our community is blessed to have Charlie, and the other 900 or so volunteers, who give of their time, expertise, and good cheer.  On behalf of the guests, volunteers, staff and Board of Trustees, I offer our thanks and warm wishes for those who so selflessly serve those in need, and today to Charlie as he celebrates his 90th birthday.”

 

 

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