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Patrons Stuff Stockings, Pantry 

Main Street Café owner Darin Parker’s annual stocking-stuffing fundraiser brings in thousands of dollars from her customers for the Ecumenical Lay Council food pantry.

By stuffing their stockings at the bar with dollars, the patrons of the Main Street Café in Northport Village are also helping to stuff the shelves of a local food pantry.

Main Street Café owner Darin Parker said it’s all part of a Christmastime tradition began more than 20 years ago. Then, she would hang stockings on the wall with her patrons’ names on them, and customers would give her a few bucks for their stockings.

Typically, she’d collect about $500 a year for the food pantry, but about four years ago, she made a decision that helped the fundraiser really take off. She made the decision to literally, physically, stuff the donations in her patrons’ stockings. Soon, the money started rolling in – last year, Parker estimates she raised over $3,150 from contributions to hundreds of stockings taped to three mirrors around the restaurant.

“The customers kind of police it now. It’s made it much more successful,” she said.

If a customer’s stocking is looking a little bit too thin, it’s not uncommon for a fellow patron to give a little nudge with hopes of rectifying that.

“Now that people can see, it becomes a little more of a contest,” Parker said.

While the road to getting there presents a bit of friendly competition, the results are serious money for the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry, which is based on the lower level of First Presbyterian Church in Northport Village. She also stretches the dollars a little further by converting donations to Stop and Shop gift cards, where the supermarket will kick in an additional 5 percent.

Parker said she was introduced to the cause years ago through the Interfaith Nutrition Network (INN)’s annual INNKeepers Ball, and has worked since then to support anti-hunger initiatives.

The cause is more pivotal than ever, especially in middle-class communities like Northport which now face a new demand for food assistance.

“In the last four or five years, with the economy being what it is, it’s become more and more important,” Parker said.

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