Roger and Linda LaDouceur

Roger and Linda LaDouceur -- Open Cupboard Food Pantry

LaDouceursThe Open Cupboard Food Pantry has been serving the residents of four area towns for 24 years – since it was actually a cupboard in the basement of the Sacred Heart Church on Maple Street in Wilton. About seven years ago, it moved downtown into the Wilton Falls Building, thanks to the generosity of Chuck Crawford.

Roger and Linda LaDouceur have been with the program since the beginning. They recently sat on their porch and talked about the program.

Although not a member of Sacred Heart, Linda attended some afternoon services, “just to get acquainted,” and got involved with a folk group.

“And then I met Deb Ducharme. She said she was going to start a St. Vincent DePaul Society program in the basement of the church, and was I interested.” She was. The group also organized free senior dinners at the church, which ended when the church closed. “That was for fellowship” Linda said. “We got to know everybody. It was a real community activity.” The food pantry moved into the rectory when there was no longer a resident priest. When the church building was offered for sale, they had to find another home.

Open Cupboard“Chuck said, hang on for a couple of weeks while I get the space painted,” Linda said. “His only request was that we make it the best food pantry ever.”

The LaDouceurs moved to Wilton in 1983. Linda grew up in Millbury, Mass., “on the family farm with cows and apples. They don’t have cows any more, but they still have apples.”

Roger grew up in Manchester, where his first job as a 14-year-old was at First National Stores. They met when both accepted jobs at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center.

“I was a rehabilitative aide, planning to go back to college in the fall,” Linda said. “Instead, I met Roger and enrolled at Keene State to get my degree in music education.  Roger came to the Mountain to teach in the School for the Deaf, straight out of Boston College Graduate School.”

They lived at the Center for four years and served as house parents in a dorm for vocational clients and then for staff. They left Crotched Mountain in 1972.

They have been married for 52 years and have three children, plus two grandchildren. Zachary is Assistant Vice President of Application Management at Citizens Bank. Hannah is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice. Susannah is an oncology infusion RN at St. Joseph Hospital.

Soon after moving to Wilton, Linda opened Whiting Hill School which began as a pre-school and grew to include six grades. “The school ran for 35 years, and for 25 of those my co-teacher was my dearest friend Nancy Day. We were best friends and I miss her every day.”

Nancy passed away a few years ago. Whiting Hill School was closed due to a decrease in enrollment. The school’s philosophy was Waldorf inspired, “treating the whole child, with emphasis on the arts and drama, we did a lot of dancing.” The students memorized poems appropriate to their age and recited them at performances. “Memorization enhanced all other areas of the children’s learning. We performed a lot of theater. For 20 years, thanks to Dennis Markaverich, we performed our end-of-year plays at the Town Hall Theater.”

Roger’s work is in a related field, evaluating children with special needs, working with parents and school staff to prepare individual programs. He has worked at many area schools including Pine Hill in Wilton and the Consortium in Milford. When that regional center closed, his office moved to Amherst and was connected with Souhegan High School.

Roger said laughingly, “I’ve come full circle, from First National now at the food bank.” He works with the N.H. Food Bank, run through N.H. Catholic Charities, to keep the Cupboard’s shelves and refrigerators fully stocked.

“It is also well supported by the town,” Linda said. “People are giving so much. They are so generous.”

The Food Pantry is open to residents of Wilton, Lyndeborough, Greenfield and Temple. It was originally set up like a grocery store, with patrons able to shop the shelves, but because of COVID it is now by phone.

“Call 603-809-6114 with your order,” Roger said. “We’ll box it up and have it ready for you to pick up. We’re very well stocked. No one should go without. I want people to know where we are – across from the police station.”

Privately, Linda said of her husband, “I have never known anyone so generous and so humble. He would take the shirt off his back if a Pantry client needed one.”

When the school closed, Linda said, “I had time to do something else and started Whiting Hill Theater Project.” The group staged one production, “Sanctuary,” written by Linda, “twice before COVID came along. I want to do it again.” The play is concerned with the injustices of the immigration system. She has also written other plays about social injustice and has been part of Wilton Peace Action for 20 years.

She listened to the chimes from the town hall clock a few blocks away. “I love Wilton. At Christmas time Dennis does the chimes (Christmas carols), and I like the sound of the train going through.”

It’s home.

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