Orion Dalton, left, and Kyle Owens, members of Cub Scout Pack 25, sort some of the donated canned food. , VALLEY DISPATCH/JENNIFER AMY MYERS

BY JENNIFER AMY MYERS, Valley Dispatch Staff

PELHAM — As the mercury dipped below freezing for the first time this season, the Boy Scouts of Pelham just smiled, bundled up and lit a huge bonfire in front of St. Patrick School.

The members of Boy Scout troops 25 and 610, Cub Scout packs 25 and 610, and Girl Scout Cadette/Senior Troop 158 teamed up for the seventh year from Nov. 11 to Nov. 13 to accept donations for and stock the Pelham Food Pantry. Many of the Boy Scouts set up camp in front of St. Patrick School, holding a 43-hour vigil from 5 p.m. on Nov. 11 until noon on Nov. 13.

According to Troop 25 Committee Chairman Tom Goss, the Scouts collected 50 shopping carts full of nonperishable food items, health and beauty aides, and paper products to help the food pantry gear up for the busy Thanksgiving season.

“The pantry gets pretty empty this time of year,” he added.

As Tom Gray, 14, of Troop 610 pushed a shopping cart full of donations up Main Street headed to the pantry to be unloaded, he reflected on why people should donate to the cause.

“If you put yourself in someone else’s position, you’d want them to do a favor for you, and you never know when you’ll find yourself in a bad situation,” he said, speaking from experience.

Three years ago the Gray family’s house burnt down.

“We lost everything,” Gray recalled. “I don’t even have baby pictures of myself and we lost the flag from my grandfather’s coffin.”

“We lived in a hotel for a while and then in a trailer for the summer, until we finally were able to rebuild the house, but that was a really bad time,” he added.

Inside the Food Pantry, Kyle Owens, 11, of Troop 610, kept himself busy placing cans of peas, soup, and beans along with boxes of cereal, Hamburger Helper, and rice along the shelves in the small trailer that serves as the food pantry’s headquarters.

“It gives you a good feeling inside to help someone through a tough time,” he said.

The shelves of the pantry may be bulging with food and other necessities now, but it will all be gone in the blink of an eye.

“It is amazing how many families in town use the Food Pantry and you’d never know it,” said Frank Fichera, Scout leader and advancement coordinator for Troop 25. “If you go in there after Thanksgiving, the shelves will be bare.”

“Over the past five years a lot of jobs have just disappeared,” he added. “People that were in a good situation five years ago suddenly find themselves in a bad situation today.”

Awaiting donations, the Scouts spent their time playing the guitar and singing, preparing for the evening bonfire, or just hanging out. Eagle Scout Matt Guimond built an impressively huge and sturdy tower on which the troops flew the American flag, along with the flags of their respective troops.

“I love it,” Gray said. “Every year it’s a blast. Last night was so cold that I had dew on my face and it froze, so I had ice hanging off my face. That was cool.”

The Pelham Food Pantry, located next to St. Patrick Clubhouse on Main Street, accepts donations of nonperishable items and cash throughout the year. For more information call (603) 635-7592.

Have a story idea? E-mail Jennifer Amy Myers at jmyers@thevalleydispatch.com.