Person of the Week
Dauster Heads Up Annual Holiday Food Drive
Marjorie Dauster has been involved with the annual Holiday Food Drive sponsored by the churches of North Haven, for nearly two decades. (Photo courtesy of Rip Dauster)
Every fall for the past 20 years, Marjorie Dauster has volunteered with North Haven’s annual Holiday Food Drive. The food drive was conceived by the North Haven Fire Department, but when storage became an issue 20 years ago, it was taken over by the churches of North Haven.
Marjorie stepped up to be the representative from St. John’s Episcopal Church and has been involved ever since. Marjorie, who retired from her career as a state prosecutor in 2019, now oversees the annual drive, which began in mid-October.
“It’s wonderful every year to see it come together, but the last two years have been particularly gratifying to see how people worked hard to find a way to do it safely knowing the pandemic was putting far more families in need,” says Marjorie. “Last year we had the most households we’ve ever had due to the impact of economic closure from the pandemic.”
In 2020, 135 families were assisted by the Holiday Food Drive and while the list is not complete yet, Marjorie expects there are still many families suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Any families in need should reach out to the North Haven Congregational Church where the food pantry is housed at 203-239-5691.
This is not the only time that Marjorie has given back to the community. She previously served as the president of North Haven Opportunity for Affordable Housing. In that role, she worked on the development of the Summerdale and Clintonville Commons.
Now that she is retired and COVID restrictions are beginning to ease, Marjorie is looking forward to finding more ways to get involved in the community. She is also spending more time with family, having recently enjoyed a trip to Houston with her two sisters. She also has two children and two grandchildren.
When she has free time, Marjorie enjoys quilting, a hobby she learned from her mother when she was young and picked up again after her children grew up. She says she was also happy to be able to “whip my garden into shape” after she retired.
How to Help
For now, though, Marjorie is concentrating on collecting donations in order to be able to serve anyone who is in need. Those wishing to donate can bring non-perishables to the Food Pantry at the North Haven Congregational Church weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Items most needed include canned soup and vegetables, sauces, tuna, cereal, peanut butter, jelly, and coffee.
Donations can also be dropped at several local businesses. Collection bins are located at North Haven Memorial Library, Arnold’s Jewelers, Bonesse’s Pizza, Carol’s Creations, Connex Credit Union (North Haven Branch), The Maids, Mio Salon, Minotti’s Music Center, North Haven Pharmacy, Quinnipiac University School of Law, Quinnipiac Physical Therapy, Ron’s Barber Shop, Spectrum Hair, and U.S. Renal Care.
Every year, both the Lions Club and the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of North Haven also make large contributions to the drive. The Boy Scouts distribute donation bags to residents and will return to collect the bags on Saturday, Nov. 13 between 9 and 11:30 a.m. The Lions Club donates turkeys for the Thanksgiving meal distribution.
“We have a lot of community support, which is great, and a large number of businesses that help by maintaining boxes and encouraging customers to contribute,” says Marjorie. “We also accept monetary donations, which are important as they allow us to buy any other turkeys we need along with produce and dairy items.”
Gift certificates or cash donations can be made toward the purchase of perishable items.
Checks should be payable to North Haven Congregational Church, Food Drive in the memo line.
For both Thanksgiving and Christmas, households receive a turkey, two boxes of non-perishable items, a bag of produce, and a bag of dairy items such as butter, milk, eggs, and bread. The Thanksgiving delivery will occur on Nov. 20 and the Christmas delivery will be on Dec. 18. In the past, volunteers have gathered to sort and package the items in preparation for the deliveries, but due to COVID, the procedures were adjusted last year.
“The pandemic has led us to change the way we’ve done things,” says Marjorie. “In the past, we had one night where we had a big volunteering gathering to pack and set up the boxes. Since that wasn’t possible last year, we organized small teams of five to do that over several days. People were masked and were able to do that safely, so we will do that again this year.”
Anyone looking to volunteer can visit the North Haven Congregational Church’s website at www.northhavenucc.org and click the “Holiday Food Drive Volunteer Sign-Up” tab. Volunteers are needed to sort non-perishable donations and pack boxes with different time slots between Sunday, Nov. 14 and Saturday, Nov. 20. Delivery volunteers are needed for Saturday, Nov. 20 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Over the many years she has been involved in the Holiday Food Drive, Marjorie has seen the list of those in need shift over the years. Even before the pandemic led to the largest numbers Marjorie has ever seen, the number of those in need has been growing.
“Part of it is that the number of people who know we’re here to help them has grown,” says Marjorie. “The list shifts as some people find themselves in need of short-term need help. We also see people who are in need or who have needed help come and help us serve other people in the community.”
One of best parts about being with the program for so long for Marjorie has been seeing so many people give back over the years. In addition to the businesses and organizations and those who donate food, there is a committee that organizes the planning. The committee also coordinates with the Town of North Haven, which also conducts a holiday food distribution.
Marjorie’s specific jobs include coordinating with some of the businesses, publicity, and organizing the lists of those in need and the delivery schedule. She works with volunteers in order to ensure all of the boxes are delivered. Her husband, Rip, creates all of the maps and routes.
“It’s hard to know the number of those who contribute because so many donate anonymously,” says Marie. “As far as the volunteers, there are a lot of people for whom this is their thing. Last year with the pandemic, those who weren’t comfortable to come in a team found other ways to help and we got it all done. I’m quite confident this year will be easier and successful.”
For information about the Holiday Food Drive, contact Reverend Scott Morrow at 203-239-5691 or Marjorie Dauster at 203-589-4128.
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .