SPOTSWOOD – Regina Fitzpatrick, a volunteer at the Community of Hope Ministries in Spotswood, was recognized and awarded for her service in the community.
The Royal Neighbors of America, the first women-led insurance organization in the U.S., honored Fitzpatrick on Oct. 13 with a Nation of Neighbors empowerment award and a national grant of $10,000.
In a press release provided by the Royal Neighbors of America, Fitzpatrick is described as “the warm and inviting host of the Wednesday Night Community Suppers at St. Peter’s Parish Hall in Spotswood.”
She is credited for overhauling a meal program that began as a small get-together to a wide-reaching operation that serves a total of 724 people, with 313 of those being children.
The food pantry provides 120 meals a week in addition to other storeroom essentials.
According to the statement, the grant will enable Fitzpatrick to expand the pantry operation, stating, “In addition to purchasing new kitchen equipment and stocking pantry shelves with items women need but cannot buy with assistance programs such as diapers and feminine products, the empowerment grant would allow Fitzpatrick to establish a food delivery service in concert with the local pantry, giving women with young children an opportunity to receive regular deliveries of staples when and where they need it.”
For Cathleen Decker, the daughter of Fitzpatrick and the Royal Neighbors Chapter leader, the food pantry embodies her mother’s keen sense of servanthood.
“Gathering at the table, a home-cooked meal, these may be simple things, but they fill you up in significant ways. I know I speak for my sisters and brothers when I say our mother has always been able to recognize what is important and to make the time to be there,” Decker said.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Fitzpatrick will celebrate 50 years in the borough on Oct. 23.
“I’ve loved this small town from day one,” Fitzpatrick said.
The self-proclaimed “old timer” finds fulfillment by actively serving her community on Wednesday nights inside of St. Peter’s Parish. Her spirit of volunteerism originated as a child and progressed into adulthood. After retirement she found an opportunity to volunteer at St. Peter’s and has been involved ever since.
“Volunteering has always been a part of my life from bake sales to Girl Scouting. But working, raising children, etc., wasn’t giving me lots of time. When I retired, l looked for something worthwhile to do. After looking at neighboring churches I found St. Peter’s and the wonderful Wednesday night dinners.
“I started under Irene Ryan 13 years ago, doing anything from mashing potatoes to washing dishes. When Irene retired it was just a natural progression to take the reins. It is an amazing feeling to be able to help someone. The smallest deed can reap great rewards,” Fitzpatrick said.
Although grateful for the recognition, Fitzpatrick attributes the success of the pantry to everyone involved.
“Being recognized for my work was very humbling. There are many people within our organization that deserve huge credit. I would love to name them, but fear I’d leave someone out. To all the people who work with me, I couldn’t do it without you. I sincerely thank them all,” Fitzpatrick said.
Furthermore, Fitzpatrick said that in addition to operating the food pantry, her organization is also involved in various community-oriented projects dedicated to those in need.
“Our organization … Community of Hope Ministries, has many other projects it works on each year such as our community food bank known as CUP (Churches United for People). All denominations of churches in our small town share the cost of running our local food pantry. We also run a school supply drive for any kid that needs help. Our church garden supplies the pantry with fresh produce all summer. We work with local pharmacies to get flu shots to our neighbors. All in all, we do as much as we can for as many as we can,” Fitzpatrick said.
When asked why others and herself willingly choose to volunteer, Fitzpatrick said, “You asked why people volunteer, I really can only answer that for myself. It’s truly a family thing. My husband was a volunteer fireman and all my adult children volunteer. I hope it’s because we set a strong example. When you help the less fortunate, you help your whole community to do better morally, spiritually and physically.”
For more information on the Community of Hope Ministries, visit https://www.facebook.com/Community-of-Hope-Ministries-113897445363941/