For 76 years this nonprofit has strengthened the communities of the South Shore area of eastern Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Today, these communities need them more than ever. Stop & Shop has supported Interfaith Social Services through the Bloomin’ 4 Good and Community Bag Programs.
Tell us about Interfaith Social Services.
Interfaith Social Services was founded in 1947 by a group of local Protestant churches in Quincy, Massachusetts.
After World War II, a need arose because of a mental health crisis among families. That’s when our organization started, primarily focused on mental health counseling. Then, we grew with the changing need we saw within our community. The food pantry started, followed by the Homelessness Prevention program shortly after.
Providing food, personal care items, mental health counseling and homelessness prevention is at our core.
We are a one-stop shop for families and individuals on the South Shore. We strive to build a vibrant community where everyone counts and all organizations work together for the greater good. Our mission is to strengthen our community by meeting basic needs and providing for ongoing stability. Providing food, personal care items, mental health counseling and homelessness prevention is at our core.
We are also no longer a religious organization. Churches founded Interfaith Social Services, but we are no longer affiliated. In the eighties, we decided to amicably break ties to be more inclusive to the community.
What services do you provide to the community?
Our organization has a food pantry, a homelessness prevention program and a mental health counseling center.
The mental health counseling center is available to anyone who needs counseling services. If you’re uninsured, underinsured or can’t afford high deductibles or co-pays, we can provide services either free of charge or on a sliding-scale payment plan. We are glad to be helping those folks who, otherwise, wouldn’t be able to find these services.
What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?
Here at Interfaith, specifically for the food pantry, we are committed to providing nourishment to our clients, not just feeding them. We try to ensure that we’re always stocked with fruits, vegetables, protein products, meats, eggs and dairy. When someone comes to our pantry, they will get six to ten bags of groceries. This includes one to two bags filled with just fresh produce. We are proud that we can deliver clients a well-rounded food supply every time they visit.
We’re also committed to providing personal care and hygiene items. A person can go to the local store and easily spend up to $50 on these products. Our personal care items include shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and feminine hygiene products. And we have expanded to be able to give out incontinence products because the demographic for our pantry has changed. The pantry has a lot more seniors that we are currently serving. To be able to provide them with incontinence products is fantastic. We are extending that respect and dignity that all people deserve. Every time someone visits, they get a bag of these items along with their groceries.
Something else that sets us apart is that our counseling center provides the first four sessions for free for every new client. There’s no conversation about income or payment plans for those first four sessions. Working with clients before any financial discussion comes into play is vital to Interfaith Social Services. We want someone to come in, feel comfortable and start talking to us.
Tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.
Since the pandemic, the number of households we serve in our food pantry has skyrocketed. We are now seeing more than 11,000 visits to our food pantry annually. This runs the whole gamut from single-parent families and senior citizens to young families just starting. We have so many examples of our team’s fantastic work with numerous wonderful and deserving families and individuals.
Right now, we have three Ukrainian refugee families who have found their way here. These are moms with their kids who made it into the country. They had to leave their husbands and fathers back in Ukraine fighting. And it has been incredible to serve them and help provide for these families in a time of need.
Since the pandemic, the number of households we serve in our food pantry has skyrocketed. We are now seeing more than 11,000 visits to our food pantry annually.
Then, with rising food prices and housing costs, food insecurity can affect many hard-working families. We have a family who has been with us for a while. There are five children in the family, with both parents working full-time. This family comes faithfully once a month to supplement their earnings in order to provide food for their children.
Also, within our senior population, we come across many difficult situations. Recently an older woman came in. She had just been referred to us from the police station. She was in a domestic violence situation where her husband had been withholding food from her. This woman needed help to get out of that situation. She is now one of our clients; thankfully, her partner is no longer in the picture. She’s in a safe place and comes here regularly for groceries.
These are all examples of how Interfaith Social Services is fulfilling our mission to strengthen our community by meeting basic needs.
What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?
We are all about dignity and respect and meeting our clients that way. Our team wants to be as welcoming as possible. We’re very customer-service-minded with fabulous volunteers. Interfaith Social Services can only do what we do because of our committed volunteers. We currently have 126 volunteers who show compassion and generosity to our clients daily. They restock and distribute over a million pounds of food yearly for us. These individuals are absolutely what we are most proud of. It is quite an achievement to have so many amazing volunteers that support what we do. We could not do this without them!
What do you want people to know about your organization?
Interfaith Social Services is here to fill the gap. When someone comes to us and tells us they have a hardship or are struggling with something and they need help, we are here for them. There are no income guidelines or red tape. We are here for them as long as they are in our service area.
We are that safety net for people. When people come here needing food, they find out that you can also get help with utility assistance or rent. If you need mental health support, you can receive counseling. We are that one-stop shop that is here for everyone who needs it.
How are you using the funds raised from the Stop & Shop Community Bag and Bloomin’ 4 Good Programs?
Being able to buy food for our pantry is one of our most significant needs. With the rising costs of items like produce and eggs and different things we are committed to providing, it can be tricky to find the necessary funds. We need extra support right now, and the funds we received from the Stop & Shop Community Bag and Bloomin’ 4 Good Programs are helping.
We rescue a large majority of the food we distribute, and much comes from many Stop & Shop locations on the South Shore, for which we are also incredibly thankful. Then, the added funds help supplement and fill those inventory holes so that every client gets a well-rounded supply of groceries.
Interfaith Social Services is currently partnered with five area Stop & Shop stores for food rescue, and they have always been helpful. The employees always go the extra mile to help with donations. Our relationships with the managers, receivers and individual department heads have always been excellent. Our team is proud to be able to offer Stop & Shop’s food donations to our clients because the goal is to give them the very best that we can. We are so grateful for all that Stop & Shop does for us.
Is there anything you would to add?
We strive to be as welcoming as possible, meeting clients where they are. There is a growing population here in Quincy, MA, of non-English speakers, specifically in Asian dialects. With the help of Stop & Shop funds, we can purchase culturally appropriate food for these clients. Interfaith Social Services also provides interpreters for every pantry shift who can appropriately communicate with these clients and help them feel safe and comfortable.
Published February 14, 2023.