By MADDY VITALE
There is a room tucked inside St. Peter’s United Methodist Church that is often filled with food donated by the public.
The room is used by the Ocean City Ecumenical Council, an association of local churches that helps families in need.
Each year, the Ecumenical Council provides food and clothing to people in the community, with the help of local groups, organizations, residents and volunteers.
In 2019, the Ecumenical Council Food Cupboard distributed food to 1,725 clients, including home delivery to the homebound. The Clothes Closet helped 2,924 clients with 25,000 articles of clothing, shoes and linens, according to statistics from the Ecumenical Council.
More than 2,300 Acme supermarket gift cards were distributed throughout the year and 12,000 pounds of food was collected as a result of the Ecumenical Council’s partnership with two Ocean City Post Office food drives.
Regina Ralston, who is in charge of public relations for the Ecumenical Council, explained that all of this is possible in part because of three people who continue to be instrumental in the Ecumenical Council’s success.
They are Carol Piechoski, president of the Council, Rissa Trofa, coordinator of the Clothes Closet, and Dottie Cianci, coordinator of the Food Cupboard.
“These three women have been involved with this for many years and work tirelessly to make things happen,” Ralston said.
Cianci began her journey at the Ecumenical Council about 17 years ago. As a member of Holy Trinity Church, her fellow parishioners and friends started the program.
“They encouraged me to get involved and I did. I enjoy it. I think every little bit helps. We want people to know that,” she said.
While the Ecumenical Council members and volunteers work hard to help those less fortunate, they are always looking for more people to give a hand, Cianci noted.
She said this year, the Council wants to reach more people to let them know what it does and how they could give assistance.
“We encourage people to help,” Cianci said. “Anyone can join in. We are really trying to get more people involved and tell more people what we do.”
Specifically, she said, the Council is looking for more businesses to partner with for the food and clothing drives.
The Council already works well in several partnerships, including with real estate offices in town, civic groups and organizations.
The partnerships have been monumental in the Council’s mission to help as many people in need as possible, Cianci explained.
Each year, the Ocean City Board of Realtors teams up with the Ecumenical Council for clothing and food drives that have been very successful.
American Legion Post 524 in Ocean City also works with the Ecumenical Council. The Ocean City High School Student Council also helps out during the food drives, Cianci said.
Making sure everyone has food and clothing are the goals, not just during the clothing and food drives several times a year, but all year, she pointed out.
“We have quite a few people to help with the food drives. We are always happy when the kids come. We get the Boy Scouts, Key Club and Student Council. We need the help,” Cianci said.
Hoping to recruit more volunteers, Cianci stressed that more men are needed to assist the Council during food deliveries. The Council delivers food and other necessities to housing complexes in town and also to residents who are homebound.
In a thank you note sent to all of the participating churches to be published in their bulletins, the Council wrote, “Because of the generosity of your contributions, time and talent, the Ocean City Ecumenical Council has helped so many in our community this past year.”