Steve Martin Retires After 30+ Years with Rehoboth Food Pantry
For more than thirty years, Steve Martin has devoted countless hours of his time to helping Rehoboth families in need. As a Rehoboth police officer, Martin helped students stay out of trouble with the DARE school program, and as coordinator of the Rehoboth Food Pantry and Helping Hands program, he provided food to the hungry, fuel assistance to those who couldn’t afford it and gifts to children at Christmas.
Martin retired as Coordinator of the Rehoboth Food Pantry/Helping Hands in mid-September. He is retiring partly for health reasons and partly because the time has come to pass on the torch. “It’s time for me to do more for my family,” Martin said. Martin’s family – his wife Sara, son Wallace and daughter Sharon - have always supported, and often assisted in, his philanthropic efforts. “They’ve been very supportive over the years with the different projects we have for the community,” Martin said. Sara Martin says her husband’s decision to retire is a positive move for him and the family. “I think it’s a good thing because he needs more time to take care of himself. He’s been busy for many, many years,” Sara Martin said.
Martin founded the Rehoboth Food Pantry more than 30 years ago and it has been a big part of his life ever since. It has always been a privately-run, volunteer program, coordinated by him with the help of his family and several volunteers. “I certainly will miss it. Some of the people have become like an extended family,” Martin said.
Martin says he could never have done it alone. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have helped out. The Lions Clubs have donated for years. Many churches, especially Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the schools and local businesses have all been very involved. “It’s impossible to make it work without the whole community,” Martin said.
Rehoboth Food Pantry, Inc. is Formed
A board of directors has been formed to take over the food pantry. Rehoboth Food Pantry and Helping Hands is now officially the Rehoboth Food Pantry, Inc. “The new people coming in are great,” Martin says.
Bill Dalpe, Jr. is heading up the group. Dalpe has worked with Martin on several different community projects involving the Rehoboth Boys Scouts. “What that man and a few others have done is just incredible,” Dalpe said. “We have a team of people doing what he was doing.” “He did God’s work, that’s what he’s been doing. Feeding people that are hungry is one of the best things you can do,” Dalpe said.
Dalpe says that Martin will be missed. “The people who come to the food pantry will miss him and we will miss the character he brought to the program,” Dalpe said. The Rehoboth Food Pantry typically services 50-60 families with food assistance throughout the year and fuel assistance during the winter months. The program also distributes food baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas and gifts to children at Christmas. “We sent approximately 100 baskets last year around Thanksgiving in addition to the food pantry,” Martin said.
Blizzard of Giving
Maureen Brawley, a member of the new board of the Rehoboth Food Pantry, has organized the holiday gift program, Blizzard of Giving, since it started 16 years ago. “It’s amazing that it’s taking ten of us to continue to do the work that Steve and his dedicated volunteers did,” Brawley said. “He’s done so much for so many, it’s been my honor to work with him,” Brawley said.
Brawley and a friend approached Martin with the idea for the Blizzard of Giving in 2001 and he was very happy to help. In the Blizzard of Giving program, displays of paper snowflakes are put up in various locations around town and each snowflake has a gift request from a Rehoboth family. “It was nice to be able to fill people’s specific needs. People were very responsive to it,” Brawley said.
Last year about 700 gifts were given out, in addition to extra gifts for stockings. Martin plans to continue helping with the Blizzard program. The Rehoboth Girl Scouts have also held a gift drive for many years and they always help the Food Pantry with many of its programs. Glenna Morris, who worked with Martin as a volunteer at the Food Pantry for many years, described Martin as “a 24/7 man who helps whenever/wherever needed.” “He’s one of the good guys,” Morris said.
Martin was born and raised in Rehoboth. He grew up right down the street from where he lives now. “I haven’t moved too far over the years,” Martin said. He attended Rehoboth schools and joined the Fire Department in 1968 as a volunteer on-call firefighter. He was a firefighter for about 10 years. In 1975 he joined the Rehoboth Police Department and started the DARE program in the schools. For his work as a DARE officer, he received the Mothers Against Drunk Driving “Officer of the Year” award and the Rehoboth Lions Club Citizens Recognition Public Servant award in 2001. “It was rewarding to help kids before they could get into doing something wrong,” Martin said. State and federal funding for the DARE program dried up and the last graduating class in Rehoboth was in December 2004.
Martin retired from the police department in 2005. He served 37+ years between the Fire and Police Departments. Martin was a member of the Lions Club for a short time, and the Lions Club has supported the Food Pantry for many years. “We certainly support Steve and his family who have given so much to the community for a long time,” said Russell Latham, Publicity Director for the Rehoboth Lions Club. Martin served on the board of selectmen for one term 2005 to 2008 and also served on other town boards. He especially enjoyed working on the board of directors for the Council on Aging. “I always enjoyed helping there,” Martin said.
Earlier this year, the Rehoboth Lions Club honored Martin again at their annual Citizen Recognition Night with the Helen Keller Award for outstanding humanitarian service to the community. “The call to serve came early and often to Steve Martin. Throughout Steve’s life he has found opportunities to build bridges and make our Town a better place,” said Laura Schwall, Town Clerk. “You could always count on Steve to be wherever someone needed help. Winston Churchill once said, “we make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give”. Steve has made a beautiful life and our community is better because of him. Thank you for all you do for so many and God Bless you Steve Martin!” Schwall said.
Future of the Rehoboth Food Pantry
Dalpe says the Rehoboth Food Pantry will continue Martin’s work. “One of Steve’s priorities was always to treat people with respect and dignity and that is very important to us,” Dalpe said. The board is busy setting up policies and procedures for the pantry’s operation. Plans include increasing the number of volunteers and looking into joining the Boston Food Bank. “Our goal is to have a big team. Many hands make light work,” Dalpe said.
In his retirement, Martin plans to spend more time with his family. “As a police officer I missed many holidays and celebrations while the children were growing up and now I’m looking forward to spending more quality time with the family. And continue helping wherever I can with the community,” Martin said.