As the Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry feeds an ever-increasing number of individuals and families, more community members are showing their support for the pantry in creative ways.

Jazz Forum, the club at 1 Dixon Lane in Tarrytown, will host a virtual benefit concert featuring seven accomplished jazz musicians, most of whom are Rivertowns residents, next Saturday, Jan. 16.

The 90-minute event will be streamed live from the venue former Dobbs Ferry residents Mark Morganelli and his wife Ellen Prior opened three years ago.

The concert will feature pianist David Janeway, who conceived and coordinated the event; tenor saxophonist Ralph Lalama; jazz vocalist Nicole Pasternak; bass player John Patitucci; baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan; Ron Vincent on drums; and Morganelli on trumpet/flugelhorn.

Morganelli and Prior lived in Dobbs Ferry for 25 years. Vincent resides in Dobbs Ferry, Janeway and Patitucci in Hastings, husband-and-wife Lalama and Pasternak in Yonkers, and Smulyan in Yonkers after 25 years in Hastings.

Housed at South Presbyterian Church at 373 Broadway since 2011, the Dobbs Ferry Food Pantry provides residents of Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley, Irvington, and Greenburgh with food and supermarket gift cards. Pantry volunteers distribute food at the church and deliver it to those who can’t stop by.  

In addition, through On The Line, a Rivertowns Chamber of Commerce initiative, selected area restaurants donate meals to the pantry. 

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the pantry served 35 to 40 families every week, comprising approximately 145 individuals. According to the pantry’s co-director (along with Molly Rodriguez) Vera Halpenny, who has lived in Dobbs Ferry for 30 years, “We now serve 150 families — over 500 people.” 

The pantry will receive 70 percent of the proceeds from the concert’s ticket sales, while Jazz Forum receives 30 percent. Tickets cost $20. If ticket buyers make a separate donation, 100 percent of the donation will benefit the pantry. “This is a fantastic way to generate donations before the event,” Halpenny remarked.

Jazz Forum Arts, the nonprofit organization dedicated to the promoting the musical genre, is producing the concert, which will take place in the club which normally seats 85.

“There will be no audience, just the band and our audio and visual crew,” Morganelli said. “Everyone will be socially distanced, and all the players will wear masks, except for the horn players when they’re playing.”

The concert will remain available for viewing on the Jazz Forum website, for the same $20 ticket price, for at least a month. 

To cope with the restrictions of safety protocol, the pantry’s operation pivoted to outdoor food distribution. Previously, families sat in the church, were called by number into the kitchen, and chose what they needed, depending on the size of the family. Clients were encouraged to bring reusable bags; now they receive food in bags and boxes (all donated) that volunteers fill in the kitchen, then set up on tables on the church’s front lawn. 

The pantry is open Wednesdays, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m., and 5:30-7 p.m. on the last Wednesday of the month. Clients start lining up at 9, Halpenny said, but seniors are served first. Volunteers monitor social distancing.

Some tables hold specialties. “There’s always a cereal table,” Halpenny noted, “and one volunteer also put together a baking bag, with flour, oil, sugar — she figured someone might be baking cookies for Christmas.”

The pantry also marked Thanksgiving for its clients, by asking On The Line participants to donate traditional side dishes. Each family went home with two or three for dinner. The pie table impressed Halpenny. 

“The community really came through for us,” she marveled. “There were enough pies to give each family two. It was phenomenal.” 

The benefit concert will begin at 8 p.m. For tickets, visit jazzforumarts.org.

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