Joann Groder, left, has turned over the Buxton Community Food Co-op, which she started and ran for the past 16 years, to new director Jean Harmon. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Joann Goder, 87, has retired as the director of the Buxton food pantry she founded 16 years ago to feed hungry families.

Starting out, Groder, with help from her husband, delivered groceries “month after month” to five families that needed the help and didn’t have vehicles. She picked up food donations every day except Christmas.

“It’s over now, I was happy to do it,” Groder said Tuesday about her tenure at the Buxton Community Food Co-op.

Jean Harmon, a former town select board member, has succeeded Groder as director of the pantry, which now has 10 volunteers and serves up to 130 families per month. Harmon has been instrumental in the co-op since its inception, Groder said, and has served on its board of directors and as secretary.

Buxton Community Food Co-op is located in the historic Elden Store building in Buxton Center. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Most of the patrons who come to the co-op, located in the historic, town-owned Elden Store building at the corner of Long Plains and Haines Meadow roads, are from Buxton, Harmon said. Some patrons also live in Gorham, Hollis and Standish. There are no eligibility requirements or restrictions.


The co-op grew out of an effort Groder started in 2004 to serve needy families full, sit-down turkey dinners on Thanksgiving at the Narragansett Pythian Sisters Temple, next to the Elden Store.

She launched the co-op in December of 2007 after Hannaford opened a supermarket in Buxton. She’d pick up donations from Hannaford, something that co-op volunteers continue to do now, seven days a week.

In the early days, it was sometimes difficult financially to keep the pantry’s heat and lights on and its doors open. In an amusing incident in 2009, a group of grandmothers were involved in a Texas Hold’em poker tournament at the Pythian hall to raise money for the fledgling pantry’s expenses. Players donated $40 to $50 a week to play, according to an American Journal news story at the time. Following a citizen’s complaint, state police raided the tournament attended by 35 players and shut it down because they said it needed a license.

Eventually, the co-op relocated to Groder’s garage and then to its current location.

In addition to Hannaford, several local farms, businesses and residents contribute food, including the Snell Farm, Estes Farm, Richard and Beverly Atkinson and Patsy Leavitt. Employees at Poland Spring donate turkeys for Thanksgiving baskets.

“We have a very generous community,” Harmon said. “If we put out the call, they respond. There’s so many people we could name.”

The food co-op is open 9 to 10 a.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

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