To the Editor:

I write in response to the letter dated July 23 submitted by Michael Barnes, in which he castigates The Spectrum for its coverage of -- and the Democrats on New Milford's Town Council for their support of -- Loaves & Fishes.

Having closely followed this newspaper's reporting on -- and the Town Council members' statements on -- Loaves & Fishes, neither criticism appears warranted.

This paper's coverage of Loaves & Fishes' zoning application has been fair and balanced, to use a well-coined phrase, as evidenced by its publication of Mr. Barnes' letter(s) and the letters of others who agree with him.

Despite Mr. Barnes' obvious disagreement with those sentiments, the opinions expressed by the Democrats on the Town Council do not warrant denunciation or ad hominem attack.

I hope Mr. Barnes would agree the responsibilities and functions of government in our civil society include educating our children and maintaining excellent public schools for that purpose; fostering an economic and civic environment in which all individuals and businesses may develop and hopefully prosper; maintaining sound roads and bridges; and, last, but certainly not least, caring for those on the "fringes of society," the poor, the elderly, the sick, the disabled, etc.

Mr. Barnes, who refers to the "business of government" as though it were a profit-making enterprise, argues the town of New Milford has no "business" supporting or hosting "a private corporation such as Loaves & Fishes." Indeed, he calls Loaves & Fishes simply "a special interest group."

By Mr. Barnes' reasoning, what "business" does the town have maintaining a senior center?

Let us examine then what this so-called "private corporation" or "special interest group" actually does.

Seven days a week, 365 days a year, volunteers at Loaves & Fishes prepare and serve free, hot, nutritious meals and bag lunches to the poor and less-fortunate in the New Milford community (i.e., Mr. Barnes' neighbors).

That is their sole "special interest," feeding the poor and less fortunate.

Would Mr. Barnes have this corporation cease operating or close its doors permanently? Would he endorse the mayor's proposal to have that facility relocated to Faith Church, on the border with Brookfield, so the poor and less-fortunate, many of whom do not drive or do not have money for gas, would be forced to walk six miles each way along Route 7 in the cold of winter or heat of summer to find a nutritious meal?

Does he propose busing the poor outside of New Milford's city limits so they can be out of sight and out of mind?

In his letter, Mr. Barnes does not indicate what he supports. He merely attacks those with whom he disagrees.

In his letter, Mr. Barnes makes the following statement which I heartily endorse: "It is the personal obligation of every one of us to help those less fortunate."

By that measure, I hope Mr. Barnes will donate -- and will strongly encourage others -- to donate boxed or canned food to the food pantry at Loaves & Fishes.

If he would like to know what food items are needed, he can visit Loaves & Fishes' website or simply call them.

I also hope Mr. Barnes and those who think alike with him will roll up their sleeves and help prepare hot nutritious meals and bag lunches for his/their less fortunate neighbors.

Mr. Barnes and his fellow civic-minded residents are also warmly invited to attend our Voices of Poetry event Saturday, Nov. 15, from 5 to 8 p.m. at St. John's Episcopal Church in New Milford, at which a group of distinguished poets and writers and talented musicians will gather to offer their words, voices and music in support of the work done by the volunteers at Loaves & Fishes.

That would truly show a community-minded spirit.

Neil Silberblatt

New Milford