Wendy Kent acceptance speech

Good evening, thank you Councilwoman Stewart. Kate holds a very special place in my heart because she was one of the first people I started talking with about food insecurity in Takoma Park. She was our Mayor then and couldn’t have been more thoughtful, helpful and encouraging. 

I thank the committee on behalf of everyone at Tommy’s Pantry for this award. As you all know, no organization is one person. Tommy’s Pantry is an all volunteer run organization that would not function without the incredibly hard work of hundreds of people who dedicate their time, brain-power, physical strength and hearts to our mission. 

I’d like to thank my co-founders, Sarah Goupell, Kathleen Bartels and Meg Holland-McDonald. And our devoted board, Sarah Goupell, Kathleen Bartels, Paula Kowalczuk, Adrienne Tilton, Sasha Johnson, Hannah Raskin, and Joe Newman. 

The idea of Tommy’s Pantry began as a very small pantry inside Takoma Park Middle School serving students and their families at the school. In March 2020, Principal Alicia Deeny called me to tell me she thought the schools would shut down for the pandemic. We alerted three PTA Presidents from neighboring schools who we were just starting to partner with and all grabbed everyone we knew to help get the food out of the school and into the hands of the community. That day Tommy’s Pantry was born. We went from serving 30 families to now serving more than 350 families twice a month giving out 900 boxes of food, produce and health and wellness items not covered by SNAP. 

When we began, we believed we would only need to do this work until the pandemic settled down but now 4 years later, we know that food insecurity was an enormous problem before the pandemic and continues to be a staggering problem in our community. Montgomery County is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States yet this insidious problem of food insecurity and SNAP benefits that don’t stretch far enough for people to live on each month persists. While we hope for nothing more than to be put out of business because everyone is fed and they have the funds to pay for health and wellness items, we know that day is not coming soon. So, I’d like to thank each and every one of you for the outstanding work you all do within our community to lift our neighbors up. I ask you to keep up your good fight.

I want to thank the extraordinary people who volunteer for Tommy’s Pantry. They fill well over 1,400 volunteer slots every year and are the definition of kindness. We could never fulfill our mission without them.

I’d like to thank the Raskin family for allowing us to name the pantry after their beloved Tommy. And lastly, I very much want to thank Tommy. We have a picture of Tommy just inside the door of the pantry. Every day he is our guiding light and touchstone to always, always choose kindness and empathy. On behalf of everyone at Tommy’s Pantry, I thank you for this honor.