Longtime food pantry volunteer retires
As of Jan. 31, Bruzgis, who is turning 71 next month, stepped down from her role operating the food pantry, and has passed the torch to Westney after 12 years of service. Westney and four other volunteers were at the food pantry Wednesday unloading a shipment of food.
“I’m totally retired now,” said Bruzgis, who said she wants to travel and have more time to enjoy retirement. “I enjoyed helping the community a lot.”
“Everybody that has come in asks where she is and if she’s okay,” Westney said. “She’s a great woman.”
Bruzgis took over handling operations at the food pantry, located on Woodrise Road, after receiving a call from Fall Mountain Food Shelf Director Mary Lou Huffling. The food pantry in Charlestown is run under the Alstead-based food shelf.
The call came out of the blue for Bruzgis, who had only helped out at the food shelf a handful of times before Huffling called her at work. Bruzgis had next to no experience with the food pantry going into her new role.
“I knew absolutely nothing about it,” she said.
At the time, Bruzgis worked at Maplewood Nursing Home in Westmoreland. She retired from her position there nine years ago.
Bruzgis knew she’d need help running the pantry, and reached out to her friend Ramona Hastings and ex-husband Peter Bruzgis, who were quick to answer the call.
“They said yes without even thinking about it,” Bruzgis said. “If it was not for [Peter], there would be no home delivery.”
In the month of January, the food pantry served 99 families, roughly 55 percent of which were from Charlestown, with the remainder coming from eight area towns. That equates to roughly 4,200 meals, all according to Westney.
“Unfortunately, it’s quite a few,” he said. “We still are mainly helping our own community.”
He said that because the program is approved and funded by the USDA, the food pantry has to accept all applicants. The food pantry currently receives food from the USDA, the New Hampshire Food Bank and the Fall Mountain Food Shelf. Shipments come every two months.
“If someone comes in and needs it, we give it to them,” he said.
Westney said that Bruzgis still comes by to help out when the food pantry receives a big shipment.
“If he needs me, I’m available,” she said.
When she made the decision late last year to step down, Bruzgis put out a plea on the Charlestown Community Forum Facebook page asking for someone to take up the role. Westney stepped up to continue the service.
Bruzgis, who has spent all but three years and six months of her life in Charlestown, said she was fond of many of the people who came through the food pantry. She remembers one woman in particular, a “hot ticket” who was “so kind and so sweet.”
“They’ve all got their stories,” she said. “A lot of good people that have come on hard times.”