In 2010, Hazele Goodridge, member of Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia (MMFP) at Arch Street Meeting House and longtime Philadelphia resident, felt the call to serve her community and joined Philabundance’s Community Food Center Choice Food Pantry as a volunteer. During those days, Philabundance’s food pantry drew an estimated 300 people daily seeking assistance and support. Hazele differentiates the benefits of a choice food pantry versus a traditional food bank as one allows people in need and struggling with food insecurity to shop for what they needed instead of simply accepting what was given that may or may not serve either their dietary restrictions or an immediate need.
As a self-proclaimed extreme couponer, Hazele noticed that many people who struggled with food insecurity also struggled with access to basic life essentials like toiletries, paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, deodorant and more. Often times, government assistance does not cover non-food items that are also essential.
Hazele combined her love for extreme couponing with service to the community. She distinctly recalls a time when the Old First Reformed Church, located on 4th and Race Streets in Philadelphia maintained a shelter at which her meeting would occasionally host dinners. Shelter staff members from the Old First Church would encourage Friends to consider collecting and ultimately donating any unused travel size hotel toiletries that people would often leave behind after traveling. Hazele wondered how she could better serve others and help shelters by providing full size toiletry items versus travel sized. She recalls a shelter volunteer affirming the idea which would help avoid having to distribute basic living essential items weekly and instead facilitate less frequent distributions with supplies that would last longer.
Enter extreme couponing! At the beginning of the Fall season of 2013, Hazele began collecting hundreds of basic living essentials. At first, she focused on supplies particularly for men, including shampoos, razors, and other hygienic items leveraging her extreme couponing skillset. Shortly after, she expanded into food items, with her own F/friends rallying around her work and even offering to purchase turkeys which she was known for distributing from the trunk of her car during the holiday season.
In 2016, Hazele started working with a fellow meeting Friend in charge of the Friends Rehabilitations Program (FRP) which primarily focused on housing for seniors. For four years, along with the Director or Reentry & Social Services, they coordinated a monthly distribution out of the Sarah Allen Community Homes Satellite Office in the Belmont area. Those in need were welcome to choose eight to ten items to meet their immediate needs. In 2021, Hazele sold her home, losing critical storage for shelter supplies previously stored in her basement. Shortly thereafter, she met Sean Connolly, Executive Director of Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust, while he was giving a presentation about the former Preservation Trust Community Garden previously managed on site at Arch Street Meeting House. After the ASMH Community Garden closed, Hazele reached out to Sean sharing the incredible work she was already doing prompting ASMH to provide her with storage for supplies at the meeting house. Fast forward to July of 2022 and Friends Pantry at Arch Street Meeting House, a choice-style pantry – officially opened!
Although the Friends Pantry still remains relatively unknown to the local community of Old City, Hazele has partnered with several local organizations providing welcome home kits.
This season, Hazele and ASMH Food Pantry volunteers have teamed up with Breaking Bread Shelter located in Upper Darby to provide food and supplies to people in need. On November 23, 2023, organizer Shawn will cook Thanksgiving dinner. Guests will leave with a personal care kit provided by ASMH Food Pantry program.
Earlier this year, while on a trip to Philadelphia, students from Sandy Spring Friends School visited Arch Street Meeting House and completed a service project of helping pack care packages for people in need. Students were encouraged to keep the care packages with them in the event they came across someone in need, which also served as an opportunity to foster philanthropy in the next generation.
In the future, Friends Pantry at ASMH hopes to draw volunteers to meet increased demand as they become more visible to the local Old City community and residents. For Meetinghouses, churches and other community service organizations hosting an upcoming Friendsgiving, Hazel and the team invite F/friends to reach out and partner. Presently, the only requirements for access to the food pantry is for individuals to share basic contact information for outreach and access. For Hazele, this is of the utmost importance to avoid bureaucracy that could inhibit those in need from accessing donations.
The Friends Pantry volunteers look forward to becoming more visible to the people in the immediate vicinity of Old City as they are currently the only food pantry and community refrigerator in the area with the next nearest food pantry located in South Philly. For seniors and others who may be immobile or who may lack access to transportation, delivery service is available upon request within the Center City limits. Hazele credits her passion for feeding and supporting those around her to the golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. She is filled with compassion seeing people gain access to the support needed at the time of need without having to navigate organizational bureaucracy that can delay meeting a need.
On Saturday, November 11, 2023, ASMH Food Pantry hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony during Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s Fall Continuing Sessions, celebrating the grand opening of the new Arch Street Meeting House Community Refrigerator. Sean Connolly and Hazele Goodridge shared how The Preservation Trust oversaw the grant that was used to install the electric and structures to build the refrigerator. Pennsylvania State Senator Nikil Saval also joined the gathering sharing a few words during the opening celebration.
The hunger crisis across our city and across our nation is a result of decades of failed policies in our food system and historic and structural racism and discrimination.
-Pennsylvania State Senator Nikil Saval
Friends who know of someone in need of food and essentials can share and submit an online form and Hazele, along with Food Pantry volunteers will connect with individuals to set up a time to meet in-person for access to the food pantry. Alternatively, anyone in need can also call or text (267) 334-0433.