Salvation army to hold food fundraiser for pantry

Capt. Helen Johnson stands in the food pantry of The Salvation Army in Lynn. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — Almost 50 years ago, Ian Anderson of the rock group Jethro Tull, along with his then-wife Jenny, wrote one of the group’s signature songs.

In it, they painted a stark, yet sympathetic, portrait of a homeless man dubbed “Aqualung,” and said of him, “feeling alone, the army’s up the road. Salvation a la mode and a cup of tea.”

Capt. Helen Johnson, who administers to the Lynn branch of the Salvation Army, has never heard the song. But she chuckled when she heard that couplet, because, for all intents and purposes, that’s what will be on the menu Saturday when the organization holds its first “Fill the Plate” fundraiser to help keep the food pantry going.

“I don’t know about ice cream,” she said. “But we will have coffee and tea here.”

Johnson and her husband, Kevin, came to the Salvation Army 11 months ago full of ideas on how to be more attentive to the needy people in Lynn. Last Christmas, the Johnsons went through the first “Item Santa Fund” drive under their stewardship and marveled at the willingness of people in the Lynn area to pitch in to help those less fortunate.

“It was great the way the city came together for its kids,” Johnson said.

The question was how could they do something similar to raise funds for the food pantry.

“We have some government funding to buy food,” she said, “and we get donations from places like Whole Food. Stop & Shop gives us bread, and we used to get bread from Shaw’s.”

But it wasn’t enough, she said, to meet the needs of the growing numbers of people coming to the food pantry. What they needed was variety so people coming to the pantry can get a full meet.

The Johnsons began thinking of what they could do as a fundraiser and hit upon something they did when they were in Cambridge: a food drive involving food.

“My husband and I were thinking of fundraisers that we could really connect with,” she said. “And we hit upon this. We’d done it before, and, really, this is really a multicultural area, and food is multicultural. So we figured why not tap into it.”

Their last assignment was Clearfield, Penn., where there was very little diversity, she said.

“There was a lot of pizza and hamburgers,” she said.

Johnson is pretty sure there will be a more diverse selection this time. Between food samples and gift cards, she is hoping to raise a significant amount of money for the food pantry.

“We also hope that the day raises more awareness of the need to fill everyone’s plate,” she said.

This being the first one the Salvation Army has run, Johnson is aware that this event may be on the small side.

“It could be a little smaller than I’d hoped,” she said. “There will be food there, too, but some of the restaurants donated gift certificates.”

The drive will take place Saturday in the Salvation Army community center at 1 Franklin St. from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. In addition where customers can go station-to-station, buffet-style eating food from the different restaurants, there will be cooking demonstrations, specialty foods and a silent auction. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. For children 12 and under, it’s $5 in advance, $10 at the door.

Local restaurants and eating establishments taking part include Jade Pacifica, Brothers of Lynn, Primo Pizza, Blue Ox, Asian Garden, Crown Chicken of Lynn; Shoyo and Oye from Saugus; the Tides from Nahant and Kelly’s Roast Beef. Also, Taso Nikolakopoulos, proprietor of John’s Roast Beef in Lynn, donated a freezer to the pantry to make storage of food easier.

Johnson said that any establishment that wants to get involved in the fundraiser should call her at the Salvation Army headquarters.

“There’s still plenty of room,” she said.

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