Nancy Trofemuk, longtime volunteer at tge Open Arms Care Center emergency food pantry in Riverhead was honored by Long Island Cares as its volunteer of the year at the organization's annual conference earlier this month. Courtesy photo.

A longtime volunteer at the Open Arms Care Center, which runs a food pantry out of First Baptist Church of Riverhead, was honored by Long Island Cares with its Nancy Bern Volunteer of the Year Award.

Nancy Trofemuk of Calverton, a volunteer worker at Open Arms for about seven years, was honored this month by the Hauppauge charity that works to feed hungry Long Islanders.

The award came at the organization’s annual agency conference in Melville on Oct. 7.

“I was dumbfounded,” Trofemuk said in an interview today, describing her surprise when the award was announced at the conference. She didn’t know that Open Arms Care Center board chairperson Zona Stroy had nominated her for the honor.

Stroy, too, was surprised when her nominee’s name was announced at the conference. She hadn’t been notified in advance.

Stroy speaks in glowing terms about Trofemuk’s dedication and work ethic.

“Nancy has been the on-site coordinator of Open Arms Emergency Food Pantry for more than five years,” Stroy said.

The pantry does a drive-up distribution twice a week. But Trofemuk is often working four or five days each week in the pantry receiving food, stocking shelves and preparing bags, Stroy said.

In addition, on two mornings each week at 7:45, Trofemuk accompanies another volunteer to receive food from a local warehouse, transport it to the pantry, and stock the shelves, Stroy said. She is always available to receive unexpected donations of food and/or respond to a client emergency, she said.

Open Arms Care Center volunteers Zona Stroy, left, and Nancy Trofemuk at the food pantry this afternoon. Photo: Denise Civiletti

“Nancy ensures we are ready to greet clients with prepared bags and boxes of non-perishable food, frozen food, produce, pet foods, and miscellaneous household and personal items,” Stroy wrote in her nomination for the award.

“Nancy has made sure we have an adequate supply of food and enough volunteers to maintain a smooth distribution, even with 3-4 times our pre-pandemic client numbers and up to 120 clients on some Wednesdays, our busiest day,” she wrote.

“Nancy has kept the pantry operating every week through the last two pandemic years, closing only one day in a snowstorm.”

Trofemuk, a retired health aide who worked at Suffolk County’s John J. Foley Skilled Nursing facility in Yaphank, said she’s motivated by one thing: “People are hungry and you have to feed them.”

Open Arms Care Center has a very diverse group of volunteers – diverse in age, ethnicity, work and life experience, and several client volunteers, Stroy said. “She has created an extraordinary team that loves volunteering, helping clients and helping each other, making suggestions for improving our operation, and recruiting other volunteers and donors,” she said.

“It is the most amazing team I have ever worked with,” said Stroy.

Stroy has been volunteering for Open Arms for 16 years.

“We do this because we want to do it. It makes us feel good. We like each other,” she said. “And we’re doing good.”

Open Arms Care Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The group is always in need of volunteers and donations of both food and cash donations, Stroy said. It operates out of donated space at First Baptist Church of Riverhead, 1018 Northville Turnpike, Riverhead. The center’s phone number is (631) 727-6943.

Long Island Cares was founded in 1980 by the late Harry Chapin with the mission of feeding hungry Long Islanders.

The Nancy Bern Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service was named for a dedicated staff member who worked for L.I. Cares from its opening until her sudden passing in 2004.

Long Island Cares — The Harry Chapin Food Bank partners with more than 300 food pantries across the island.

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