December 01, 2003 12:00 PM

When she first heard about the boxes stuffed with groceries like spaghetti and cereal, Lily Davis of Pembroke, 111., could hardly believe the bounty had come from complete strangers. “I said, ‘Are you sure?’ These people have never met me.”

Now, though, Davis realizes how much they care. Thanks to Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., children’s-center owner Pam Koner, 52, the Davises are one of more than 70 needy families in Pembroke receiving monthly parcels of food and clothes as part of a rapidly growing program called Family-to-Family. Inspiration struck last September, when Koner read a newspaper story about Pembroke, one of the poorest towns in America. “It was haunting,” says the single mother of two. “I had to do something. So I called information and asked for the pastor in the story. I asked what he needed. He said, ‘Food.’ ”

Davis, 43, a nursing student raising four children with her retired husband, says the packages from Koner and her townmates always arrive just in the nick of time. “Things get low,” she says, “but I never run out of food.”

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