July 20, 2013

Madeline Roberts retires from Windham Food Pantry By Michelle Libby

For more than six years, Madeline Roberts did all she could for the clients of the Windham Food Pantry and clothes closet as the social service administrative assistant. She was planning on retiring next February, but in the end after some cutbacks and a new supervisor, Roberts decided that June 25 looked like the right time to make her exit.

“Retirement’s looking pretty good right now,” she said. “I did what I could for the clients over the six and a half years I was there,” she said. 

“I made a lot of changes,” she added. The clothes closet, which was a disorganized room next to the food pantry, is now a five room, nicely sorted space. She also oversaw the revamping of the counter and new pantry shelves in the food pantry. She saw all of this work as betterment for the clients and for the town.

“It was time for a change,” said town manager Tony Plante. “Things move on. We appreciate the work she has done and change is always hard.”

“I was told I was too generous,” Roberts said. The need in Windham has increased drastically since the first year Roberts took over. The first year there were six seniors per month seeking help, now there are 53. Larger families have dwindled, but the food pantry still sees 170 families per month.

Roberts also revamped the Christmas program, where children, approximately 240 last year, received presents from the generosity of people in the community like Ron and Judy Eby. She also started a backpack project for children heading to school. Each child received a backpack filled with school supplies. There was also a chance for locals to sponsor Thanksgiving baskets for less fortunate community members.
After each donation, if she had an address, Roberts wrote the person or group a thank you note. “It doesn’t cost much to say thank you, but it costs a lot not to,” she said.

“We really worked well and the community supported us,” Roberts said. The pantry also held fund-raisers like a bowl-a-thon, spaghetti supper and an annual yard sale.

“The wonderful relationships I made and the support of people and businesses, those I’ll really miss,” she said. “I would like to be known as someone who had a lot of empathy for the clients in Windham. They were my concern and of course my beautiful smile,” she laughed. “Certainly not my height.” She also wanted to thank her clients and especially the volunteers who worked with her during her tenure.

Roberts plans to stay active with social and human service causes within the community, but she’s not sure just how at this point. For now, she looks forward to spending more time with her 12-year-old granddaughter and family.

“We will continue the work and we wish Madeline well,” Plante said.

The position vacated by Roberts will remain open through the summer. Plante said that they would look into filling it in the fall. “The plan is to fill it,” he said.

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