By Ken MacLeod

BOSTON (CBS) – Jennifer Sammons showed us some well stocked shelves at the Interfaith Food Pantry in Quincy Tuesday night, because 50 needy families didn’t get their groceries.

“I’m hoping,” she says, “they’ll be able to come back tomorrow — or later in the week — to get some food.”

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Trouble is — the pantry itself might be colder than the freezers.

So, it was deemed unsafe for volunteers to work — and those seeking food were instead greeted by this sign out front.

“So, we had to make a tough choice today,” Sammons says.

The bad news is on the roof — an aging, broken heating system that needs to be replaced — at a cost of $27,000.

In fact, to replace it workers will have to shut down the street out front and hoist the unit off with a crane.

But downstairs it meant no heat on our coldest day since 2019.

“The timing is terrible!” says Sammons.

In Boston, the timing is critical for staffers at the Pine Street Inn, as their staffers roamed the streets Tuesday night hoping to convince roughly 100 homeless people to come inside — rather than risk frostbite or hypothermia.

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“So not every single person will come in and we know that,” says executive director Lyndia Downie. “When people don’t come in, we take out soup, hot chocolate and blankets. We just do the best we can.”

Facing its own staffing shortage due to COVID, Pine Street is still welcoming more homeless folks than they have beds for.

“They are providing a warm place,” says 52-year-old Angel Serrano, who says he’s been living on the street off and on for seven years.

“I’ll be staying in the cafeteria — I don’t have a bed — but it is a warm place to stay.”

Back in Quincy, the Interfaith Food Pantry hopes to reopen Wednesday — as daytime temps at least approach freezing.

But the prospect of a monstrous repair bill is an equally chilly thought. “That’s money we could’ve spent on produce, meat and diapers for our clients,” says Jennifer Sammons.

So, she’s praying for some surprise donors — or contractors — to lend a hand — enabling the pantry to again focus on feeding — not heating.

Update 1/12: The food pantry received $10,000 in donations for a new heating system. HVAC specialists and electricians have also called volunteering to help install the new unit.

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If you’d like to help, the pantry’s website is interfaithsocialservices.org.

Ken MacLeod