On any given Saturday morning, Darren Rigger gets up and heads to the pantry. No matter how well stocked it is, the Democratic candidate for Peekskill's Common Council won't find his breakfast there. But then, it isn't his pantry.
I help stock the shelves and fill the bags, and sometimes it helps that I can speak Spanish to the people coming to us, said Rigger, who volunteers with Fred's Pantry. He's been there from the inception and, despite a slight hitch in attendance through the campaign season, intends to remain involved.
Fred's Pantry offers families in need a chance to stock their kitchens and keep food on their plates. Operated by St. Peter's Episcopal Church and in conjunction with Caring for the Homeless of Peekskill (CHOP) , Fred's Pantry operates more like a small market than a traditional food shelter. A classic set up would have pre-packed bags of food ready for pickup by families.
What we started to see was, after people came in and got their bags of food they would wait around outside and swap and trade items they didn't like or possibly couldn't eat, Rigger said. Items such as peanut butter would often end up in bags and despite good intentions, aren't suitable for everyone.
So Fred's Pantry moved to a different model, one where people could come in and shop for an allotment of items from approved categories. This allows families to get the items they will and can actually eat.
Rigger noted that a large part of the need comes from day laborers and families with roots out of the country. That's where his ability to speak Spanish comes in handy.
Fred's Pantry isn't only charitable work to appear on Rigger's resume. He's a volunteer legislative ambassador for the American Cancer Society and a team captain in the Relay for Life. The focus on fighting cancer is personal. Rigger's father, David, died from an aggressive and rare lung cancer despite having never smoked a cigarette in his life. Rigger's mother was later diagnosed with breast cancer. His work with the ACS helps protect funding for prevention and treatment research. He knows that his family history raises his own chances of contracting some form of cancer dramatically.
When I talk about my work with the American Cancer Society I tell people, my fight is selfish, this is self-preservation, said Rigger.
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