71% of the people we serve live in poverty. Nearly half of them have had to choose between buying food and paying for utilities, rent, mortgage or medical care.
The unprecedented and anomalous tornadoes that took place on Wednesday June 1 left a 39-mile path of destruction through the most populated county in The Food Bank’s service area. Hundreds of families and individuals were left with severely damaged or destroyed homes, thousands more were left without electricity for days, and the tragic storms claimed at least three lives.
In the wake of the tornadoes, The Food Bank’s partner agencies were inundated with individuals who suddenly were in need of food for themselves and their families. On Thursday, The Food Bank delivered immediate food relief to Springfield Salvation Army, Springfield Housing Authority, and HAP, and we continue to send trucks of food to agencies in towns across southeast Hampden County. Assistance from our sister organizations throughout New England, like the Greater Boston Food Bank, came pouring in. And concerned neighbors from called, emailed, facebooked, and tweeted asking what they could do to help.
On Friday, we held our first of two food distribution events (the second of which took place yesterday), and everyone on The Food Bank staff pitched in to help prepare. Dozens of families came to Springfield Partners for Community Action on State st. in Springfield to receive nutritious, easy to prepare food and water. (A third event will most likely take place on Friday; stay tuned for details).
Concerned that many people who live in neighborhoods blocked by debris, or who did not want to leave their homes left open to the elements by the storm, would not be able to make it to the distribution site, a few Food Bankers loaded up a car and drove to some of the most damaged areas to ensure that people had food and water.
But we aren’t the only ones responsible for all of the hard work. The Western Mass. population at large has responded to this natural disaster by coming together, and showing the sense of community that we are so proud of.
“We’re very fortunate to live in a region that has a real sense of community, so we have been meeting our fundraising and food donation goals,” said Andrew Morehouse, Food Bank executive director, in an interview with the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Donations of both food and funds have been pouring in, ensuring a supply of most needed foods (a list can be found here). Monetary donations are most useful, because funds can be put to use more quickly and efficiently than food donations. The Food Bank is able to buy food in bulk at a much better rate than retail, enabling us to leverage every one dollar donated to provide $13 of food to tornado victims.
Without the help of these donors, and our dedicated volunteers (some of whom were affected by the tornadoes themselves) our outreach this week would not have been possible.
“It makes me feel really good cause when people think about Springfield, they think about the negative,” said one Six Corners resident in a recent story on WWLP, “but they don’t see that we’re a community that comes together when the time needs to be, especially after an incident like the tornado. It shows that we can pull together.”
But the Springfield community isn’t the only one pulling together in the face of this tragedy. Food Banker Katie Defoe, our nutritionist, said, “It is devastating to walk down some of the main streets in Monson, seeing hillsides without trees and some houses now just piles of splintered wood, but it really took my breath away that first day to see the incoming fleets of tree workers, firefighters, and carpenters heading into town. For every house gone, it seems there are five or more volunteers or professionals cutting trees, patching roofs, or just being present for support. Truly inspiring to see how the local community, state, and even country as a whole has tried to support these people that have lost their homes.”
Support has come from near and far, from the C&S Wholesale Grocers right next door to our warehouse in Hatfield, to a woman from Illinois who heard about us through a friend on Twitter, and sent us a donation. We are honored and humbled to know that so many people care about our part of the world. The Food Bank will continue to help those of our neighbors affected by the tornadoes as long as our help is needed. If you’d like to join us and show your support, visit our tornado response page to find out how.
Thank you to all the volunteers, truck drivers, staffers, police officers, firefighters, and city and state officials who have pitched in, rolled their sleeves up, and helped our neighbors in need.Comments Off
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