HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — When seniors and families in Hoboken started going hungry at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a group of local volunteers decided to not let it continue.

As CBS2’s Christina Fan reported Wednesday, they built a pantry from nothing.

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At Hoboken Food Pantry, each box of food comes with a side of warmth and conversation. Lynne Lowen makes it a point to learn everyone’s names. She gets to know them while help them carry their groceries home.

She said it’s what neighbors do.

“I’m a retired banker and we live in a country where I don’t think anybody should be hungry,” Lowen said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Lowen said she felt compelled to help at the start of the pandemic, as did founder Toni Tomarazzo, who said Hoboken only has a few church-based pantries. So when she heard stories of people struggling with hunger, she had to take action, even if it meant starting from zero.

“I think giving back to our community this way is just the best thing that I could ever have thought of. And I know that this is making an impact on the people that we’re serving,” Tomarazzo said.

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The pantry was so small at first it operated out of a closet and served a couple dozen people with a handful of volunteers. But the need was so great, the operation quickly grew via word of mouth. Outpacing the demand was the community’s generosity.

“It has saved, for example, our senior citizens from choosing between medicine or food. It has also helped out families keep nutritious food on the table,” Tomarazzo said.

Today, the pantry has expanded to 140 volunteers, more than 1,000 financial donors, and serves an average of 450 households a month.

“I love it. It’s great. We’re all going through a hard time, so I appreciate everything,” Hoboken resident Liz Quinones said.

“It’s excellent, it is. It’s a bless(ing),” another resident added.

The greatest blessing off all, if you ask the volunteers, is being in the position to help.

The Hoboken Food Pantry is funded entirely off of donations and is also collecting toys for a holiday market. For more information, please click here.

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