The words “Upper East Side” and “food pantry” don't usually go together. But in 1980, Karen C. Altfest, along with other residents of the affluent Manhattan neighborhood, saw a need she couldn't ignore.
“We saw people digging through garbage cans and realized that these were our neighbors. We had to pull together to help them,” she said.
The realization prompted Ms. Altfest, executive vice president of Altfest Personal Wealth Management, to spearhead the creation of the Yorkville Common Pantry.
When it started, the pantry served 30 families. Thirty years later, it provides hot meals, nutrition education and case management services to more than 25,000 people annually — and Ms. Altfest still is an active volunteer.
“I'm very proud, but it's much more than I expected it would be. I'm a bit saddened that we still have the need,” she said.
Volunteer work has always been a part of Ms. Altfest's life.
“I grew up in a family that believed in social service. My mother founded an organization that focused on cancer. As a child I observed my mother at her board meetings, and it had an impact on me,” she said.
“I learned that it's not always about writing the check — it's about showing up.”