Cari Marchese, Founder of the People’s Pantry – A Tribute

Photo by Linda Holt
Photo by Linda Holt


On March 2, 2017, the world lost a lovely lady who left a lasting impression – on many and me. I dedicate this post to her.

The People’s Pantry

About six years ago, I walked into the North Parish at the North Andover Common, pictured, to cover a story I’d been assigned. The article was a human-interest piece on the People’s Pantry, which had been operating out of the parish building since 1992. I enjoyed interviewing volunteers, but was most intrigued with the Pantry’s founder. I left that day with a great story and resolve to get involved. I’ve been volunteering at the Pantry ever since.

Cari Marchese

The People’s Pantry was founded by Cari Marchese, a little lady (not even five feet tall) with a big heart. Her small stature never took away from her powerful presence. She was a firm leader who brought a smile to my face with her strict policies and no-nonsense attitude. Yet she was caring, ensuring that every pantry guest was made to feel welcome and respected.

Cari also took time to make me feel special. She complimented my efforts at Pantry and consistently read my magazine articles with the nicest things to say. She’d email me regularly to comment on my column or ask me how Tony, the girls and Oscar were doing. She’d tell me about her cat, Tony, and we’d giggle about “her Tony and my Tony.” She shared that she had a son in California who was also a writer and encouraged me to keep working at my craft.

At Cari’s memorial, when I sat inside the sanctuary of the North Parish for the first time, I marveled at the stories told by her loving husband, Mel, her children and friends. She was a remarkable woman. I left wishing I’d asked her more questions and learned more about her. Sometimes, I’m afraid to pry so I keep conversation light, but only at Cari’s memorial service did I realize how great her accomplishments were and her spirit even greater.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to know Cari. She inspired me in many ways. Through her, I learned that money need not be the only reward for hard work and passion. Cari dedicated a great portion of her life to volunteerism and she was undoubtedly fulfilled and empowered.

I wish I’d gotten to know Cari better, but I’m glad I got to know her at all.

The North Parish

Now, when I see the North Parish, I will think of Cari. In this photo, taken by Linda Holt, @LindaHoltCreative, the bright and colorful light shining on the steeple is the perfect representation of that which Cari brought into this world.

To learn more about the People’s Pantry visit

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Julie Marchese-Temple
4 years ago

Cari Marchese was my Beloved Mother, and I’m her Firstborn. Thank you so much for your observations, and kind words. I live in California, and was not at the
Memorial, but my brother Eric read what I had written.
March 2, was three years already. Thank you Mom for being more of a person than words can say!!

7 years ago

What a beautiful tribute Beth. I have driven by that pantry line many mornings and always wondered more about it. Cari left a lasting and wonderful legacy.

7 years ago

What a nice tribute! It’s so impressive all that she has done for this community! This picture of the North Parish is absolutely stunning!

7 years ago

Nice tribute to a very caring person.

7 years ago

A lovely tribute. Thank you for sharing.