Nonprofits and Food Banks in Western Massachusetts Serve Thanksgiving Day — Massachusetts

It would be safe to assume that someone like Jack Smith has nothing to be thankful for.

He is not homeless, but he has lost both his parents as well as his grandmother, who used to give food every Thanksgiving.

However, the moment she walked into Open Pantry Community Services Inc.’s annual luncheon. for Thanksgiving at the High School of Commerce, the warm and unforgettable memories of his grandmother and the camaraderie she made with other guests instantly brightened his day.

“It’s all about love,” Smith said. “It’s about being human and being there for each other.”

He asked, “Why does it take a vacation to do this?”

Open Thanksgiving Meal in the food pantry

Kenneth White, of Springfield, at Open Pantry Community Services, Inc.’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner. held at the High School of Commerce. (Hoang ‘Leon’ Nguyen / The Republican)

Springfield resident Kenneth White, who is attending this annual dinner for the first time, admits that while things aren’t going well for him, he’s grateful for the free meal and a place to go home to when he’s gone.

“It’s not for me,” White said. “It’s about the people who donate their time to prepare this food and come here and serve it to us. You should be grateful for that.”

About 750 Thanksgiving meals were donated and 425 delivered, according to Terry Maxey, company director at Open Pantry Community Services Inc.

Maxey, who has overseen this annual event for more than 25 years, is grateful to see the smiles on many faces in the Commerce cafeteria.

Each plate of turkey, squash, salad, rolls and pumpkin and blueberry pie helped Maxey and other volunteers feel less alone for their guests, who may not have a home or family to call home to.

“Many of our clients may have been through a divorce, lost their job or experienced a number of different things that brought them to this point,” Maxey said. “We want to make sure we serve them with dignity and they can come to us.”

“We’re going to support them in any way we can,” Maxey said.

His daughter Sydney Maxey, who has been volunteering at Open Pantry’s annual Thanksgiving dinner for 12 years, says it’s a “great time” for her, seeing familiar faces and providing a meal to struggling residents . .

“Even when I move away, I’m still going to keep coming because I always want to help others,” Maxey said. “My dad instilled that in me at a young age.”

Hampden Charter School of Science - Chicopee

Student and staff at Hampden Charter School of Science’s East Campus delivered a Thanksgiving meal to the Chicopee Police and Fire Departments. (Photo courtesy of Hampden’s Charter School of Science)

Also in anticipation, Hampden Charter School of Science East and West Campus staff and students spent the morning delivering Thanksgiving dinners to the Chicopee Police and Fire Department and the West Springfield Police Department.

Chicopee Firefighter Jared Falconer appreciated the generosity of the student and staff and was thrilled to enjoy a plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and green bean casserole.

“We’re not looking for handouts or donations,” Falconer said. “It’s rewarding when the community stops by and contributes.”

Since there were 678 Thanksgiving Day fires in Massachusetts from 2017 to 2021, and 87 percent of them were started by home cooking activities, according to Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey, firefighters like Falconer are ready to handle any calls it may receive.

“It’s something we don’t expect to have fire, but we do a lot of training to improve our skills,” Falconer said. “We are ready immediately for any fire.”

Hampden Charter School of Science - West Springfield

Students and staff at Hampden Charter School of Science’s West Campus dropped off Thanksgiving meals at the West Springfield Police Department. (Jona Snowden / The Republican)

In West Springfield, Lt. Adam Polastry said he also appreciated the Thanksgiving meal, given the lack of recognition he and his colleagues receive.

Alyssa Donald, a student at Hampden Charter School of Science’s West Campus, decided to spend her morning volunteering because she believes that “everyone should be able to give and think about giving instead of receiving.”

“I think it’s important for people to be able to help others who may be in need because we never really know who may be in need,” Donald said. “We never really know who might be in need.”

Outside of the Greater Springfield area, beyond Hampden County, the spirit of giving was present in Hampshire County, thanks to Manna Community Kitchen Inc.

Volunteers from the nonprofit spent the afternoon serving turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and green beans to 200 guests. Additionally, volunteers delivered over 780 meals to residents in Northampton, Amherst, Hadley, Williamsburg, Holyoke, Haydenville and Whately.

“It’s really an opportunity, for the first year since 2019, to be able to deliver meals in person,” said Kaitlyn Ferrari, director of development for Manna Community Kitchen. “It’s a good opportunity for them to come, warm up, have a meal and get a real sense of community.”

“This is very important to me,” Ferrari said.

This is the 35th year the nonprofit organization has hosted this Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving awareness effort

Out of business, friends Katherine Cecelia and Melissa Leutsch set up a table and handed out free snacks and toiletries for every guest either entering or leaving the Open Pantry Thanksgiving event. (Jona Snowden / The Republican)