Hometown Hero: Kathleen LaRou gives back through the Jaffrey Food Pantry and Meals on Wheels

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 04-24-2023 11:13 AM

Every so often, Kathleen LaRou, director of the Jaffrey Food Pantry, receives a note.

“To the wonderful people at the Jaffrey Food Pantry, thanks again for your assistance during my time in college,” wrote a Franklin Pierce University graduate.

Another expressed gratitude for the team’s cheerfulness and kindness, the way they remembered individual people’s likes and dislikes and the respect they showed. One of the notes dates back to 2017, but LaRou has kept them, a reminder of the good the pantry is in the community.

For her efforts, Owen Houghton nominated LaRou to be recognized as part of the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript’s Hometown Heroes series, calling her “a caring, concerned team community member.”

Raised to give back

The food pantry works with the New Hampshire Food Bank, as well as local farms and grocery stores, to provide good-quality food, including fresh-baked products such as bread and protein such as meat and locally sourced eggs. Volunteers sometimes add a special touch, such as putting together birthday kits with cake mix and frosting, candles and a baking pan to make the cake.

“It makes you feel good,” LaRou said. “It really does make you feel good to do something for somebody else.”

That attitude was something LaRou’s mother June LaRou instilled in her while she was growing up. The two worked together in the Jaffrey Food Pantry for years, including co-running it at one point. Her mother volunteered at the pantry into her 90s, and did all the record-keeping, prior to her death in 2018.

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Prior to moving to Jaffrey in 2001, LaRou said she was involved in other organizations as a volunteer, including a women’s and children’s shelter and the Humane Society.

“I was raised that way, to always give back,” LaRou said.

Now, she sees that tradition being carried on with other families who help at the pantry. Their youngest volunteer is only 11, and another is 15 but has been volunteering since he was 5.

“I think if you start helping others and doing something at that age, you become a lifelong volunteer,” LaRou said.

While the Jaffrey Food Pantry position is a volunteer one, LaRou also works to get food to those in need through Meals on Wheels, where she is a supervisor of the Jaffrey distribution site that delivers meals to Jaffrey, Rindge, Troy and Swanzey, a role she has been in for the last four years.

LaRou is also a member of the board of directors for TEAM Jaffrey, a group dedicated to enhancing and promoting the downtown area of Jaffrey, including running multiple annual events such as Riverfest, Scarecrows on the Common, downtown trick-or-treat, the spring cleanup and the summer farmers’ market and Concerts on the Common.

LaRou said one of the things that she loves about volunteering is the connections that she makes.

“I really think this is a close-knit, tight community,” LaRou said.

The Jaffrey Food Pantry is open every Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. For information about the pantry, call 603-532-8005, or visit the Jaffrey Food Pantry Facebook page.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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