Pittsfield-area member agencies feed over 4,400 during Thanksgiving Angels
While volunteers set up tables, unloaded cases of food and posted signs for the Thanksgiving Angels food distribution in Pittsfield, Rosemary Chapman fielded a lot of questions. People wanted to know if the eggs had arrived and if so, where they were; they wanted to know where other foods should be set up for distribution and the whereabouts of other volunteers. She had answers to most of their questions, and when she didn’t, she usually knew who did. Chapman is part of a team of individuals that makes the yearly food distribution run like a well-oiled machine. That’s a good thing. With over 4,400 individuals needing to be served, the event required careful planning and execution.
Thanksgiving Angels is a collaboration between six of The Food Bank’s Pittsfield-area food pantries, including St. Joseph’s Food Pantry where Chapman has been a volunteer for 11 years.* The distribution was established so that families and individuals facing hunger would not have to travel from one pantry to another to acquire food for their Thanksgiving meals. A lack of adequate public transportation in the Berkshires poses a serious problem for low-income households, so the pantries decided that South Congregational Church in downtown Pittsfield would be the ideal, central location, a place where Chapman says they could, “pool ideas and our food together.”
“The first year,” she continued, “was around 900 families. This year we handed out a turkey and many fixings to 1,500 families in need [more than 4,400 individuals]. The Food Bank has been a huge help each year donating multiple pounds of fresh veggies, [and] making sure the turkey breasts we needed to order, were set aside and shipped to us right in time for the event.”
“In our agency network, this kind of joint-distribution is a unique model, and I think it’s a tremendously effective one,” said Michelle Geoffroy, Agency Relations Manager at The Food Bank who stopped by to say hello and observe the event that day.
“… what makes it work so well is the coordination and teamwork that takes place between the participating pantries for months ahead of time.”
The coordination and teamwork Geoffroy referred to, was carried out with the support of 380 volunteers who took on advanced prep work, unloaded and distributed food, and maintained a sense of calm and order on the day of the event.
As guests waited for the distribution to begin, a line of several hundred people snaked around the church’s building. To make their wait easier, representatives from the Salvation Army in Pittsfield grilled hotdogs for guests while oldies music blasted from a portable radio. Staff from Haddad Subaru were also there, waiting to offer guests rides back home when they left the event with their bags filled with the makings of a full Thanksgiving dinner. What was clear was the deep commitment from all who were there to assist anyone who came to pick up food.
“It’s a time for giving,” said volunteer Lisa Wright of Pittsfield. “If it wasn’t for half the stuff here, a lot of folks would go hungry.”
Frederica D’Ambrosi, of Becket, was thrilled with the distribution. “I think it’s an awesome, fabulous experience and an amazing thing to do to help,” she said.
D’Ambrosi utilizes the South Congregational Church Food Pantry and volunteers there as a way of giving back. She described the pantry as caring and understanding, so she didn’t hesitate to support Thanksgiving Angels.
“They ask no questions about your needs. They’re awesome!”
Along with foods often served during traditional Thanksgiving meals, staples such as eggs, breakfast cereals, canned goods, and fresh vegetables, all of which can be served any time, were also distributed. Much of this healthy food came from The Food Bank.
“The Food Bank always goes out of their way to accommodate us with everything that [guests] might need each year,” said Rosemary Chapman. “We don’t know what we would do without their help all year round!”
“There’s no way The Food Bank could serve all these people on our own,” Michelle Geoffroy added, “so we really depend on our agencies to get the food out to their communities, and our Berkshire partners certainly do a wonderful job at that. I’m so proud of the work our Pittsfield partner agencies do around Thanksgiving Angels each year, and all through the year.”
*Thanksgiving Angels is a collaboration between the Christian Center of Pittsfield, First United Methodist Church, the Salvation Army, Pittsfield Corps, Soldier On, South Congregational Church Food Pantry, and St. Joseph’s Church Food Pantry.
More information about The Food Bank’s member agency food pantries and meal programs can be found on our Get Help page. These organizations are located in all four counties of the region.