Giving the Gift of Food and Community

Nation of Neighbors recipient Community of Hope Ministries

Regina (Jeannie) Fitzpatrick is known as the warm and inviting host of Wednesday Night Community Suppers at St. Peter’s Parish Hall in Spotswood, New Jersey. Originally designed as a sit-down supper to host approximately 70-75 food insecure guests for a full meal, the pandemic motivated Jeannie to transform the supper to a take-out operation that serves 120 meals each week and offers a food pantry for cupboard staples. Currently, the food pantry serves 724 people, including 313 children.

“Retirement gave me more time to serve the community but giving back has always been a part of my life,” said Jeannie. “When I learned about Community of Hope Ministries’ Wednesday night dinner, I thought this was my calling – feeding people, the kitchen, a table, all these things resonated with what is important to me.”

Community of Hope Ministries’ mission is social and economic justice for those in need of community, support, and resources for a better life. Jeannie has served with the nonprofit organization for 13 years. “We provide connection and a safe place to shop for quality food,” said Jeannie. “Our clients know they are not alone, and when a basic need can be met, they can turn their attention to other important priorities – that is empowering!”

Jeannie says one of the biggest challenges of women raising families and working below the poverty line is their ability to get to where resources are located. “Shift work, poor public transportation especially in the suburbs, and lack of daycare can make getting to food pantries and soup kitchens nearly impossible,” she added.

Cathleen Decker is the Royal Neighbors Chapter Leader that nominated Jeannie for a 2021 Nation of Neighbors℠ award and empowerment grant for Community of Hope Ministries. “I nominated Jeannie to recognize her tireless effort to feed a community with nutritious sustenance and to inspire and build a community of others who will carry on her commitment to serve our food-insecure neighbors with dignity, respect, and love,” Cathleen said. Jeannie was honored during an award presentation on October 13, 2021.

Community of Hope Ministries will use the funds to establish an emergency fund, increase food production by purchasing additional supplies and equipment, keep diapers and feminine products supplied in the pantry, and drive the next generation of volunteers. “Reaching, educating, exciting, and incentivizing women who could benefit from this food service or contribute their time and talent to help the organization is paramount,” added Cathleen. “That’s why Jeannie intends to earmark empowerment grant funds to excite the next generation of volunteers, reaching women where they are… on social media… in a deliberate, thoughtful, and consistent way.”

Jeannie adds, “What keeps me going is knowing that I am doing everything I can to support and love the community where I raised my children, and the hope that my work will inspire others to see themselves in their neighbors.”