By Josh LaBella
Rose Majestic said her 30 years of food banking have been challenging but fulfilling.
Majestic, who studied at Yale Divinity School, has been the director of the West Haven Emergency Assistance Task Force, or WHEAT, for 15 years. She said the work she does is closely tied into what she studied.
“Absolutely, I think all of us — all the volunteers and myself — we are definitely people who are compassionate and also listen to peoples stories,” said Majestic. “When people come to WHEAT they want to tell you why they’re here.”
Majestic said one reason they want to tell her and the volunteers why they are there is because they are marginalized and nobody else listens to them. In a way, Majestic said, everybody who works or volunteers at WHEAT is a spiritual director.
“There’s a direct correlation between doing this kind of work and the other work that I do, which is ministry,” said Majestic. “It’s definitely a vocation, it’s not a job. You get called to it.”
The director said during her time there WHEAT has done nothing but grow as the need for food assistance rose. Majestic attributed the growth to several factors.
“We’re a rapidly aging city,” said Majestic. “We have had a lot of industries leave. We have a huge veteran population, some of which are disabled in many ways. We have a lot of seniors who are on fixed incomes. We have so many under employed people who are working minimum wage jobs and don’t have benefits, don’t have health insurance.”
Majestic said people paying for other necessities can end up not having enough food to get them through an entire month. She says her role is to keep the doors open but also to see what other needs they can serve.
“For instance we’ve had seminars by companies who will talk to people about Medicare,” said Majestic. “We’ve had visiting nurses come in and do vaccines. We’ve had the hospital come in and do fall prevention programs for the elderly. So it’s like, what else besides feeding people are we in a position to do for our clients?”
According to Majestic there are many moments she considers highlights during her three decade career. From giving a widowed man food and Easter baskets for his children to one of their food bank partners getting a pallet of oranges with packets of cocaine under it.
“People think of human services as if we’re all like beating our breasts and crying and downcast,” said Majestic. “There are just as many crazy things that happen as there are things that make you cry.”
The people of West Haven are incredibly generous, Majestic said, adding she had never found such faithful contributors as she had in the city.
“These people understand that one of their neighbors or themselves, at one point, were in crisis or in need,” said Majestic. “That is something I will always take away.
Another thing Majestic said was that people need to continue doing the work. She said the need is not going to end.
“I wish to God I could say ‘We’ll close when hunger ends,’” said Majestic. “But, that’s not going to happen because hunger is one rung of poverty. It’s the first rung. But it’s caused by not having affordable housing. It’s caused by not having a livable minimum wage. So you’re always going to have that need.”
Majestic said in West Haven people are cognizant that there are people in need and they cannot ever lose sight of that.