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Fern Street Food Ministry Receives Large Donations from Widows Society

Food Pantry Carts pre-packed and ready for one of the Fern Street Food Ministry services. Courtesy photo

A combined $75,000 donation enables the Ministry to continue and expand services to those experiencing hunger and food insecurity during the pandemic.


The Widows Society, a private foundation in Avon, CT, made two large donations to the Fern Street Food Ministry, a ministry of the Universalist Church of West Hartford, over the course of the pandemic that allowed the Ministry to continue to serve households experiencing food insecurity in the greater West Hartford area.

A check from the Widows Society is presented to the Fern Street Food Ministry. From left: Jacob Lee, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, Rev. Dr. Adam Robersmith. Courtesy photo

In October 2020, the Fern Street Food Ministry received a $25,000 check from the Widows Society with a letter that read: “We are in the process of closing our philanthropy, and before we do so we are pleased to be able to give a parting gift of $25,000 to the Universalist Church to be used in your community outreach program that has helped so many people.”

The Fern Street Food Ministry remained open during the pandemic and found new ways to support the food insecure in their community, given the challenges that the pandemic presented. The money donated by The Widows Society helped buy additional food and supplies, and expand the support that included a delivery service for their School Backpack Food program, drive-through pick-up programs, and to-go take-home bags for their Food Pantry and Community Breakfast programs; services that were critical during the pandemic.

Connecticut Foodshare also continued their Mobile Foodshare “pantry-on-wheels” at Fern Street Food Ministry every other week, helping over 130 local households get food, information, and other help during the pandemic.

Assuming the Widows Society donation was a generous one-time donation, you can imagine the surprise when Elizabeth Fitzpatrick from The Widows Society, walked through the doors of the Fern Street Food Ministry in September of 2021 with an even larger donation of $50,000.

“We were absolutely floored. This level of generosity is staggering for a group of our size. The number of people who are hungry or food insecure has grown during the pandemic, so this additional generous gift will help us continue to serve people in need. In fact, we were recently able to purchase additional turkeys and chickens so all the households we serve had enough for Thanksgiving,” said Jacob Lee, Fern Street Food Ministry coordinator.

Founded in 1825, The Widows Society had been operating and raising money for wives who had lost husbands at sea. Over time, their philanthropic endeavors evolved to provide funds for other groups and organizations, as well.

“This has been the most perilous time in our country’s history since the group started,” said Joan Thomas, president of The Widows Society. “Our goal was to reach out to the community to find the needs. Social services found us by word of mouth as the years have gone on. We wanted the money to be used to best support the community.”

The Rev. Dr. Adam Robersmith, Senior Minister of the Universalist Church of West Hartford, said, “Financial and volunteer support makes this work possible. We’re honored by The Widows Society’s trust and are glad to put their resources to use to help those who need it most.”

For over 40 years the food programs at the Universalist Church of West Hartford have been serving the community. Expanding into five programs that serve various needs in West Hartford, and beyond, their mission is to alleviate hunger in our communities. The Food Ministry strives to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those experiencing food insecurity, increase their access to healthy food, and serve all in a spirit of love, honoring the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

For more information about the Fern Street Food Ministry, visit their website.

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