Person of the Week
North Haven’s Food Bank Program in Good Hands
Robert Snurkowski is happily settling into his role as community services senior clerk for the Town of North Haven, coordinating stock at the food pantry (shown here) as well as helping neighbors in need address heating needs for the winter season. (Photo by Elizabeth Reinhart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
In the short time that he has held the position of community services senior clerk, Robert Snurkowski’s professional and up-beat personality has already made a difference in the lives of hundreds of residents in North Haven.
“I love [the job],” Robert says. “It’s great. The best job I’ve ever had, mostly because I know we’re doing good things for people.”
This year, Robert has taken the lead on coordinating the stocking and replenishing of items in the town’s food bank, in addition to his involvement with other programs at North Haven’s Community Services Department.
“He has a high energy, infectious energy. It’s work, but he keeps it professional and fun,” says Carla Picard, a co-worker at Community Services. “You can tell he really enjoys [his position].”
Robert takes a customer-centric stance when it comes to donations, admitting that “people do love to have the soups” but other non-perishable items “that are something we don’t always have” are also needed. Examples include coffees, teas, cookies, crackers, cereals, pancake syrup, granola bars, and fruit bars.
Robert works in collaboration with a variety of different organizations throughout the community to ensure the success of the town’s food bank.
One organization includes the Knights of Columbus Council 3733 in North Haven.
“If we give them a call, they are ready to jump on it,” Robert says. “They stand right outside Stop & Shop, asking for donations, and they come over with boxes and boxes of stuff for us.”
A partnership with the Congregational Church on Church Street also helps the food bank reach a greater number of those in need.
The church’s food bank makes food available in pre-packaged boxes while the town’s food bank is accessible by appointment on a monthly basis.
“We do appointment-based shopping in which individuals call at least 24 hours in advance,” Robert says. “Families can come in privately…they can keep their anonymity.”
Confidentiality is a feature often appreciated by individuals or families that seek food donations in spite of the statistics that show the prevalence of Connecticut residents that are food insecure, when residents are limited or have uncertain access to enough food.
Nine percent of North Haven’s population experiences food insecurity, according to Map the Meal Gap 2018 from Feeding America, a national hunger-relief organization.
The community service’s food pantry serves approximately 350 families on a yearly basis, Robert says.
Local support in helping to alleviate food insecurity in North Haven has been plentiful, Robert says.
“We don’t run any fundraisers due to the partners we have in town,” Robert says. “They come and are ready and willing to serve.”
Individuals or groups are encouraged to collect food on behalf of the town’s pantry and donations are accepted on a year-round basis.
Turkeys are a popular donation item at this time of year. After a busy Thanksgiving, Robert is ready to help distribute Christmas food items to those in need on Friday, Dec. 20 from noon to 2 pm.
“We offer turkey and vegetables such as green beans, peas, corn, and carrots…There will also be stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy,” Robert says.
The food bank offered these specialty dinners to “75 families for Thanksgiving and 60 families for Christmas this year,” adds Robert.
Although he knows that he is making a difference by affecting so many lives through his work, they are also affecting his.
“When you do something for someone and you see the smile on their face, it is rewarding,” Robert says. “Any number of [the] things that I do, you feel good about what you accomplished.”
In addition to the food bank, Robert assists with the town’s energy assistance program, which is a state and federally funded grant program that assists families with fuel expenses.
He also coordinates activities associated with clients being serviced by BHcare, a non-profit that helps adults, children, and families who are struggling with mental health issues, substance use issues, or domestic violence.
Prior to his position with the town of North Haven, Robert was an assistant cash department head at the local Stop & Shop for 10 years.
Drawn to numbers and math, Robert worked at Wachovia and Wells Fargo Banks for an additional 10 years and a mortgage service company located in Meriden.
“It’s one of those things [with mathematical problems], there is always an answer to it,” Robert says. “It’s just which way you look at it.”
Robert attended Stone Academy in West Haven for integrated computer technologies. He now brings his attention-to-detail skills garnered from his years in the financial area and education in computer technology to his job in North Haven.
And Robert’s collaborative nature becomes apparent when he assists others in the department with their programs.
He most recently helped his co-worker, Picard, with a gift selection process that she runs as part of the town’s annual season of giving program. This initiative enables qualifying families who are experiencing financial hardship to select toys or gifts to provide to their children aged 18 and under.
“We are really doing good things for people here,” Robert says.
Those interested in donating items to the food pantry or gifts for the season of giving program, as well as those in need of assistance, can contact North Haven Community Services at 203-239-5321.
Elizabeth Reinhart covers news for Chester, Deep River, and Essex for Zip06. Email at .