Posted by JF&CS

Fresh tomatoes on the vine at Family Table.

When Marilyn Piket and her family moved from New Jersey to Massachusetts, they did so with a strong sense of optimism. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the Pikets had struggled financially. Marilyn and her husband were underemployed and on the verge of losing their home. However, things started to look up when the Pikets were presented with an exciting opportunity from the market research firm they both worked for. The company offered them the chance to transfer to their branch in Massachusetts, complete with relocation expenses, promotions, and higher salaries.

“It sounded great,” said Marilyn. “Our son was in his 20s, and our daughter was in her third year of college. It was really the ideal time to move.” Unfortunately, relocating to Massachusetts did not pan out as expected. After moving, Marilyn and her husband lost their new jobs at the market research firm. “I was very depressed,” shared Marilyn. “I felt like we had hit rock bottom. We were rootless. We didn’t know anyone out here.”

Without the jobs they had been counting on, the Pikets couldn’t afford groceries. A friend from New Jersey suggested that Marilyn reach out to Jewish human services agencies in Massachusetts to see if any of them provide food assistance. “That’s how we discovered the Family Table food pantry at JF&CS,” said Marilyn. “It was such a blessing.”

Feeling Welcome at Family Table

Marilyn and her husband started going to the Family Table North Shore Marketplace at Temple Sinai in Marblehead. At Marketplace, those experiencing food insecurity can come and “shop” for groceries as if they were visiting a supermarket where all the food was free. Although Family Table is a food pantry, Marilyn was never made to feel like she was down on her luck. “The atmosphere at Marketplace was upbeat,” said Marilyn. “Everyone was so jovial and welcoming. They made us feel special.”

Marilyn recalls that the Family Table staff and volunteers went out of their way to please clients and make sure that they had what they needed. “They would hand out great recipes, and we would chat about which ones we had tried,” said Marilyn. The Pikets were also impressed with the high-quality, nutritious food they found at Marketplace. Marilyn’s husband was a fan of the frozen fruit, which he would use to make smoothies.

While Family Table provides groceries to people regardless of religious affiliation, the program serves the Jewish community by offering kosher food and Jewish ritual and holiday items. Marilyn identifies as a secular Jew, but she said that seeing Family Table in action made her proud to be Jewish. “I may not be observant, but I have a strong ethnic Jewish identity,” said Marilyn. “At Family Table, we never felt judged for not being religious. If we didn’t take the Shabbat candles, that was totally fine.” Although she isn’t observant, Marilyn did enjoy cooking some of her favorite Jewish meals with ingredients from Family Table, including matzah brei and her mother’s kosher chicken recipe.

Paying it Forward

After receiving help from Family Table for around two years, the Pikets found themselves in a financial position where they could afford their own groceries. Marilyn recalls that even when her husband found a new job, a staff member at Family Table suggested that they receive groceries for one more month, as a precaution. “It just showed how much they care,” said Marilyn. “They have such concern for their clients.”

Now, Marilyn works as a Program Manager at Operation ABLE, Inc., a nonprofit that provides job seekers with training programs and employment services. In this role, Marilyn works with clients who may be homeless or experiencing financial hardship. “When I’m with my clients, I try to foster the same welcoming atmosphere that I experienced at Family Table Marketplace,” said Marilyn.

Marilyn is proud that she is able to help people who are struggling with unemployment, and she plans on donating to Family Table when she is able. “It meant so much knowing that Family Table was there for us,” said Marilyn. “We look forward to paying it forward and helping others.”

Are you interested in supporting our food pantry? Learn how you can fundraise for Family Table!