Wife thanks Asbury Park pantry for feeding her husband, herself

ASBURY PARK, NJ – As 2022 draws to a close, Patch has launched an initiative to help recognize local heroes who are making a difference in their communities.

In December, Mary Agnes Coles named the Mercy Center in Asbury Park, which is a food pantry. Coles said that without the pantry volunteers, she and her husband wouldn’t have enough to eat.

Here is their story:

Local hero home state
New Jersey

Local hero patch
Asbury Park

“I go to the pantry there every week,” Coles said. “I don’t know if it’s their full-time job or volunteer, but they help those in need. Without judgment, only with kindness.”

Why do you think the local hero should be recognized or honoured?

My family and I have always been able to take care of ourselves, but after going through tough times, The Mercy Center has been a saving grace to my family. Their pantry has hours from Monday to Friday to fit everyone’s schedule. They are the nicest people I have met since needing help with food. Led by Tracy, the pantry manager, these ladies are warm, caring and compassionate. You are always greeted with a smile. And in a time when people are so quick to judge each other, there’s no judgment here. Only a hand to ask you how they can help you and what you need.

I have been on disability since 2011, having worked all my life. I was diagnosed with an abnormality in my kidneys and kidney disease. The abnormality creates large amounts of kidney stones, infections, and very large kidney stones. My doctors then told me that they couldn’t let me go back to work because of the damage already done to my kidneys. That’s a whole other story in itself but because of that, that’s how I ended up on disability. My husband had been working for a while and we had just signed a lease for an apartment after being homeless for 10 months.

The ink wasn’t even dry on the lease when my husband was told his company was downsizing and he was no longer needed. So began the search to find him a job so that we could pay our rent and our bills. He now works at QuickChek, but unfortunately it’s only part-time and minimum wage. That said, food has become a luxury. And it shouldn’t be, but it was in our case. It just goes to show that, especially these days with inflation and the economy, you can be a paycheck away from needing help or being homeless. We are still struggling.

So I literally googled a pantry near me. At first I went to another that I won’t name and it was not a pleasant experience. The staff was nice, but the other people waiting put me off going back.

So I went to Google and found The Mercy Center. It’s a wonderful group of people and I look forward to seeing them once a week. And it’s a wide variety of foods. Their kindness and compassion truly fuel the soul, just as their generosity and nourishment feed our bellies. They have lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, which is a rarity I learn about in the pantry. These ladies really care about you and get to know you by your first name. Like an extension of the family, if you will.

What’s one thing you want everyone to know about the local hero?

I just want them to be recognized for all they do for the needy. It’s really difficult to ask for help, but with the Mercy Center, we are reassured. We are currently still having difficulties because I am disabled and my husband can only find a part-time job to pay our rent. And knowing that the Mercy Center is there to help us with food has definitely relieved me. So, in closing, I’ll just say this: if anyone is struggling to eat, know that there are people who care. And they’re at the Mercy Center in Asbury Park on Main Street. And will greet you with a smile, kind words and without judgment.

Thank you for all you do, Mercy Center!

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