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A Hearty Helping

Ellicottville Food Pantry assisting 70+ families this holiday season

A staggering number of families in Cattaraugus County - 1 in 5 - are starving. The Ellicottville Food Pantry, under the leadership of Shelly Kibby, makes the difference every day. 

How many days a week do you go hungry? None? Me neither. I’ve been fortunate enough to never experience not having dinner at the table. But in Cattaraugus County - one of the poorest in the state - families going hungry is a legitimate problem. While there isn’t one quick fix to this particular problem, a contingent of like-minded people lead an every day crusade to help those in need. Enter the Ellicottville Food Pantry. 

Located at 53 Elizabeth Street (connected to the United Church of Ellicottville), the Food Pantry services Ellicottville and the 8-10 mile radius around it. Feeding families, providing toiletries, delivering food and offering other assistance, volunteers continue to be the driving force in this feel good success story. There are 70+ families they currently provide for, and most recently, they are in the process of putting together over 60 Thanksgiving dinners. 

While no volunteer or donator can be overlooked, a major component of the Food Pantry’s recent growth is because of Shelly Kibby. An Olean native that spent the past 30 years in Virginia, Kibby moved back to the area and started helping around the Pantry. 

“I was living with my sister when I first moved back, and saw a big food truck where someone asked if I could help,” she said. “After 5-6 months of helping, I fell in love with the place. Going to church, volunteering … after a few months, I started doing the reports. Then all of a sudden I was running it. There was no one else to take over, and I’ve put my heart and soul into it.” 

With Kibby at the helm, the Pantry has grown significantly. An added stockroom to store more supplies, four new commercial refrigerators and freezers, and reaching out to new families has made the Ellicottville Pantry a hub of activity for the local area. 

“I’m so proud of where we started to where we are now,” she said. “Before, we had this tiny fridge that could barely hold any food. Now look where we’re at - providing 60 families with turkey Thanksgiving dinners.”

Kibby recently was diagnosed - and subsequently conquered - cancer. When the doctors said her kidneys were failing, she almost threw in the towel. But she then remembered all of the good she’s done, the tears of the grateful people, the progress they’ve made at the Pantry. 

“Sometimes it’s so easy to take life for granted,” she said. “But I made it. A higher power decided I wasn’t done yet, and I’ve applied that attitude. I want to make sure people can eat, get to their doctor’s appointments or be able to have heat in their home. It’s self rewarding.” 

Along with keeping people fed, the Pantry also assists with other things, like HEAP - the state-run Home Energy Application Program. HEAP assists families in need with keeping their homes heated throughout the bitter western New York winters. Kibby also walks senior citizens through Medicare savings programs. Anything she can do to help, she and her volunteers will. 

While they’re set on the number of volunteers they have, you can help the Pantry in a number of other ways. It’s always in need of paper products. Food drives and fundraisers help restock shelves and put money in the account for them to go purchase the other food they need to keep families fed. Most pantries only allow families to come once a month - to provide 9 healthy meals a month - but Ellicottville allows for twice a month, or 18 meals. That’s a significant amount of volume, and they could use your help. 

“I have the best volunteers and support system,” Kibby said, quick to point all of them out: Glen Bush, Nancy Rogan, Pat Kerl, OJ Agramonte and Vail Germain. “It’s so rewarding when you’re helping someone. It’s a warm and loving atmosphere. We’re here to help people.” 

For more information on the Ellicottville Food Pantry, stop by or call Shelly at 804-387-4807.