Anne Stiles Finds Joy as Volunteer Food Pantry Manager

December 2023
text which reads retiree profile next to a photo portrait of Anne Stiles

At 77, Anne Stiles isn’t slowing down in retirement — the free time she now has propels her to lead a life of service and joy. Between her volunteer roles at a local food pantry and serving on the vestry of her church, Stiles still finds time to exercise and meet up with family and friends.

A retired human rights advocate for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, Stiles now manages the Helping Every Life Prosper (HELP) food pantry in Blackstone. Unlike many other food distributions, the HELP pantry offers those in need a selection of goods and ingredients to prepare meals. “They actually choose the items, and that really pleases them,” Stiles says.

photo of Anne Stiles standing in front of food pantry shelves
VRS retiree Anne Stiles volunteers as a food pantry manager in Blackstone.

The majority of the pantry’s clients are seniors, some living in subsidized housing or temporary accommodations. Stiles goes the extra mile, posting her phone number to the door for after-hours emergencies and personally delivering food to those unable to visit the pantry.

Her dedication to providing well-balanced meals is palpable as Stiles describes the essential items provided at the pantry — an assortment of packaged protein, vegetables and carbohydrates. She’s particularly excited about the recent addition of a new refrigerator, which allows the pantry to offer cheese and some fresh meats. 

Her role in the success of HELP extends beyond the pantry doors. Stiles also serves as the organization’s secretary, diligently recording meeting minutes and sending heartfelt thank-you notes to donors.

She carries that same commitment to community into her role as a volunteer at her church, where she strives to keep members connected through newsletters and emails.

Her career as a human rights advocate naturally aligns with her current work at the food pantry. In both roles, Stiles has had a knack for listening, empathizing and helping others find solutions to their problems.

If you don’t find Stiles at the food pantry or her church, she’s likely getting lunch with friends. “I’m always trying to set up something with somebody,” she laughs. Stiles recognizes the value of staying socially active in retirement, often organizing outings with friends and family.

A few times a year, she meets up with her two sisters. They explored Alaska in 2017 and took in Greece just before the pandemic. In 2018, Stiles arranged a memory-making European tour with her teenage granddaughter.

She’s a proponent of physical health, attending an exercise class three times a week and encouraging others to do the same if they can. She hopes to reach age 100 and still be able to move freely. “I tell everybody, my mother lived to be 97, so I’m going for the Smucker’s jar,” she says.

On her way to 100, Stiles intends to continue her work at the food pantry for as long she can, gradually seeking someone to take over. Her philosophy is simple yet profound: “You can do a lot if you pace yourself.”

Editor’s Note: VRS staff learned that Anne Stiles died on March 2, 2024, shortly after publication. This article honors her contributions to her community.

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