(Former pastor of Christ United Methodist Church and founder of the Island Food Pantry in 1981)

         Before the Food Cupboard (original name) started, there had been an increasing number of persons coming to our parsonage asking for food.  I remember one group of three who said they had been “white knuckling” it.  By this they meant that they had been trying their best to clench their fists and stave off hunger.  They hated to ask for food, but, when their hunger became too great, they finally had to humble themselves and seek help.

         One Sunday morning a single mother, whom we knew, attended church service with her two sons.  After the service, her friend went to visit the mother and took a new food recipe that she had made and wanted to share.  When she did not find the mother home, she went into her open door to leave the food in the refrigerator.  She was surprised to find only one partly filled jar of salad dressing inside.  When she began opening the kitchen cupboards, she found they were bare.  She called to report her finding, and we knew it was time to start a Food Cupboard for the hungry on the Island.  We began in a small way with foods we thought would be useful and gave them to any who asked.  Meanwhile, we let Island clergy, social services and schools know that free food was available for any in need. 

         As time went on, the Vineyard Committee on Hunger was established, and eventually we began to work together.  When I left the Island in 1984, Pam Perry, who had been helping me, took over the responsibility of the Food Cupboard.  Under her leadership, the program expanded greatly and food began to be distributed on a regular basis.  Food and monies to sustain the program were given by individuals, churches, farmers, the Vineyard Committee on Hunger and, for a brief period, from the state.



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1981 – The Island Food Pantry was started by Helen Oliver in Christ United Methodist Church (“TheStone Church”) where it is still located.  Helen Oliver is now retired and living in New Hampshire.

1984 – The Pantry was directed by Pam Perry when Helen Oliver was appointed to a church off island.

1996 – Pam Perry asked to be relieved of the Pantry responsibilities.  Christ United Methodist Church then asked Armen Hanjian, a retired United Methodist minister, to be the next Director. Pam Perry died in 2000.


  1. The Director is now called the Coordinator, which better describes his interactions with the volunteers.   The volunteers have increased from 25 to 70.  We are a 100% volunteer organization.
  2. Annual audits have been initiated.
  3. An Advisory Board has been initiated including the Pastor of the Church, a member of the Church’s outreach Committee, a member of the volunteer staff, a representative of the Vineyard Committee on Hunger and a Food Pantry client.
  4. Statistics have been maintained.

THE ISLAND FOOD PANTRY / P.O. Box 1874 Vineyard Haven, MA 02568 / 508-693-4764