I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful lady in Manchester.  She’s really somewhat of a superwoman.  She is also a mom.  Let me tell you about Patricia Donahue and how her tenacity was crucial during Hurricane Sandy relief which has led to her new philanthropic efforts.

Rich DeSisto
Rich DeSisto

Pat Donahue, a Toms River resident unleashed her superpowers during Hurricane Sandy relief in October of 2012.  Her response to the devastation became a model of how it’s done.

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Despite dealing with the damage to her own home, she decided to make a difference in the community.   She led the development of The Peoples Pantry in Toms River, a first-of-its-kind, full-time relief center, to aid during the aftermath of the super-storm.

Donahue is the mother of a special needs child.  She was also the president of the Special Education PTA for the school district.  Once the storm passed, she went to the shelters to seek out families, children, and special needs kids to make sure they were safe.  She ended up volunteering at those shelters, including Fulfill, the Food Bank of Monmouth, and Ocean Counties.

via Google Maps
via Google Maps

After logging in countless hours helping those in need, she then moved her operation to The Peoples Pantry.  Distribution efforts helped about 7 shelters.  That assistance also included “metal health, habitat for humanity, rebuilds, case management, and volunteer management.”

Donahue says...

“My background says, if you put everything under one roof, more services can be provided and more help can be had.”

Her operation to put "everything under one roof”, became a trend. That effort forced her to expand the 3000 square foot facility into a 20,000 square foot facility with a loading dock.

Some of those food donations came from Joel Perlmutter, of the Perlmutter family of ShopRite’s.  Joel was very generous to Pat’s cause and continued to stock the Pantry shelves during her relief efforts.

“Every time we would open shop, The Peoples Pantry would always have food, thanks to Joel”

Sadly, Mr. Perlmutter passed away in 2017.

Pat retired from the Peoples Pantry in 2020, as Fulfill announced it was taking over managing The Peoples Pantry.

The People’s Pantry is now Inspire-NJ. As the founder, president, and chief executive officer of Inspire-NJ, Donahue has set her sights on continuing her philanthropic work from their new headquarters.

A 6,000 square foot building on Route 70 in Manchester, they call “@The Barn”, will address multiple needs of the community including providing and delivering healthy meals and pantry items to those who are unable to visit the facility.

Rich De Sisto
Rich De Sisto

For weeks now, I have driven past and watched this building go through the renovations needed.

This new Social Enterprise will honor the selfless actions and memory of Joel Perlmutter with The Joel E. Perlmutter Memorial Food Pantry.  Guided by its “Social Enterprise” roots, this new type of service will act as a “supermarket-style client choice food pantry, offering fresh produce, meats, cheeses, healthy canned and dry goods, bakery products and much more.”

There is a large population of seniors some disabled.  We will be ensuring all needed food and supplies will be delivered to our most vulnerable seniors and the disabled, while running a brick-and-mortar site five days a week and providing mobile pantry services every weekend.”

Those weekly mobile pantry services will also be provided to the many active adult communities including Crestwood Village.  Visits will also act as “well checks”.  “It’s an important component in monitoring these folks and to connect them with social or family assistance when needed.”

“Anyone can stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner, an ice cream or a scup of coffee.  Your money spent is a donation to help continue the efforts of the pantry to serve the outer community.”

The services Donahue and her team are providing will get funding assistance from the market items for sale, a coffee shop, ice cream bar, and restaurant.  Kohr Brothers frozen custard will be for sale and breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices are options in the sit-down or take-out restaurant.  All the profits will directly fund these services.

One of the services @ The Barn that is the closest to Pat Donahue's heart is the training center to help “differently abled” young adults in every aspect of different businesses.  “I am the mother of a daughter who is on the spectrum.  In my experience, I see that business owners do not have the right bandwidth to properly train.”

Instructors providing job training and “life skills” are retired educators from the area schools and professionals in each of their industries. Her services will be free of charge.

She also said the training is the first step to working together with partners in the community to create a job placement program.

Donahue is hoping @ The Barn and all its glory will be ready to open to the public this fall.  “An October grand opening is on the calendar”.

I can’t wait to see the fruits of her labor come to fruition and provide this community with the abundance of love that is in her heart.  At the very least, I will be stopping in for my morning coffee as I drive into the radio station.

LOOK INSIDE: @ THE BARN - The Peoples Pantry

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