Volunteer focuses on food for the hungry
By Debbie Griffin
John Taylor sits at the front door of the pantry’s 507 First St. location each Monday and Wednesday, welcoming people in, handing out bags, answering questions and chatting about what items are available that day. Taylor thinks people appreciate a friendly face to greet them because some have apprehension or embarrassment about coming. He said he always makes sure kids get a cookie or treat.
“We have some of the sweetest people come through the food shelf,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the food shelf has always been special to him. He sits on the board of the Princeton Food Pantry and has been actively feeding the hungry since the early 1970s when he returned from service in Vietnam. One of his military duties had been to find enemy food caches and destroy them.
Taylor said a lot of veterans were having a hard time during that era and many people were “hungry at home,” so he started “passing a hat” around the VFW to help them. He said he expected that when it started, he would just do it to get a few people “over the hump” and buy some groceries, but the need for food has done nothing but increase.
“It outgrew us,” he said about the start of Princeton’s food shelf.
Free-food operations moved to the Trinity church, the historic depot and a few other locations as it has grown in capacity and numbers of volunteers. Taylor said everyone is looking forward to the construction of a food-shelf building (beside Family Pathways) and the start of a capital campaign to raise money for the structure that will finally be a permanent home for the Princeton Food Pantry.
He said he’s kept on volunteering because of the great people he meets who come to use the food shelf, as well as the positive energy among the volunteers who run it. Taylor said most of the workers are retired seniors who “just want to do some good in the world.”
Taylor is retired from a dual career that includes 20 years as a construction-concrete-brick professional and 20 years as a cable-TV technician. He grew up in Princeton, where he owns land and tends two gardens because he likes to grow food. His crops include 2 acres of sweet corn every year and such produce as radishes, green beans, cucumbers, melons and more.
Taylor said he and his wife, Jean, “got smart” and let some vines crawl along a fence so they don’t have to bend as far to harvest some of the items. He said planting is easy and it’s fun to watch things grow; plus, he enjoys simple things like tending the garden and working with the tiller.
“We always encourage people to grow their garden and then come donate produce,” he said about the food pantry.
He recalls one year when Bill George gave the food pantry 480 tomato plants, and the volunteers had to call in the Boy Scouts to do a free distribution of the fruit so it would all be used.
Taylor also runs errands for the food shelf because he has a truck with the topper needed for toting food. Sometimes he finds himself picking up tubs of margarine or cases of bottled water or other goods. He said he likes to do all he can to help and has remained active with the food shelf for many years because it is such a basic and ongoing need.
Taylor and his wife have a daughter and son, and besides enjoying time with family, he enjoys fishing as well as gardening and is a member of the VFW and American Legion. The vital volunteer said he encourages giving money and goods to the food shelf anytime because “anything is appreciated” and it all goes to a good cause.