‘Bag the Community’ restocks pantry shelves

by Town Reminder

Community-wide collection drive held Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend
By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – Helping those in need is as easy as leaving a bag of canned goods on your doorstep.
Volunteers from various community groups are gearing up for the third year of collecting canned goods and non-perishable items for the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry [NHN] with the Bag The Community event.
On Saturday, Jan. 19, groups will distribute bags to nearly every neighborhood in town. Stapled to the bags will be basic instructions for what kind of items the pantry is looking to collect and a date to return the filled bags to the doorstep.
A phone number to reach volunteers will be included in the event volunteers miss a collection site.
Added to the route this year are main roads like Granby Road, Newton Street, College Street, Lamb Street, Brainerd Street and Lyman Street.
On Martin Luther King Day, Monday, Jan. 21, the same group of volunteers will hit the streets once more to collect the then-filled bags of donations.
“Our food pantry provides food and other essentials needed by households, such as clothing, information about other support services and household goods,” said Sue Brouillette, of NHN.
“From young families with babies to seniors, the food pantry clients are a diverse group, all residents of South Hadley,” she said.
Three years ago, this very event helped kick-start the NHN Food Pantry into the start of assisting locals in need.
Currently, the NHN Food Pantry meets the needs of 150 local families. Every donation, large or small, is helpful and much appreciated.
To start, students at South Hadley High School held “Can The New Guy” throughout December, during which students brought in canned goods to fill the office of the newest staff member.
“This drive forms a strong foundation for the community-wide drive,” said Brouillette.
Five thousand bags will be distributed to residences this year. Brouillette said the number of bags increases each year as the groups’ goal of a greater collection rises.
In 2011, 2,500 bags were distributed. In 2012, it was 3,500.
New this year is a partnership with Mount Holyoke College, throughout the efforts of Sarah Chase, a VISTA in the office of Community Engagement headed by Alan Bloomgarden and Caitlin Kidder, a MHC intern.
A food drive will be held on campus in addition to the support of 70 volunteers and five vehicles from the MHC community on the days of the drive. Monetary donations from the college community have been made as well.
The group of volunteers this year is composed of South Hadley High School students, the MHC community, Count Me In, Neighbors Helping Neighbors and the South Hadley Youth Commission.
Volunteers are needed to drive groups of students to the various neighborhoods in town as well as to do the actual dropping off and picking up of the bags.
On Saturday, Jan. 19, volunteers are needed from 9 to 10:30 a.m. On Monday, Jan. 21 they are needed from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Food sorters are needed Monday from 11 a.m to 3 p.m.
In total, an approximate number of 200 volunteers are needed.
To assist with the Bag The Community event, contact (413) 535-8861.