North Quabbin Food-A-Thon brings in thousands of donated goods

  • Community members and volunteers collect and sort food donations for distribution to local food pantries during the 16th annual North Quabbin Food-A-Thon on Tuesday in downtown Orange. STAFF PHOTOs/DAN LITTLE

  • Community members and volunteers collect and sort food donations for distribution to local food pantries during the 16th annual North Quabbin Food-A-Thon on Tuesday in downtown Orange. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Community members and volunteers collect and sort food donations for distribution to local food pantries during the 16th annual North Quabbin Food-A-Thon on Tuesday in downtown Orange. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Community members and volunteers collect and sort food donations for distribution to local food pantries during the 16th annual North Quabbin Food-A-Thon on Tuesday in downtown Orange. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Community members and volunteers collect and sort food donations for distribution to local food pantries during the 16th annual North Quabbin Food-A-Thon on Tuesday in downtown Orange. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Community members and volunteers collect and sort food donations for distribution to local food pantries during the 16th annual North Quabbin Food-A-Thon on Tuesday in downtown Orange. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Community members and volunteers collect and sort food donations for distribution to local food pantries during the 16th annual North Quabbin Food-A-Thon on Tuesday in downtown Orange. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 5/22/2019 11:15:41 PM

ORANGE — It was 16 years ago that locals decided to hold a “Food-A-Thon” in the North Quabbin region for the first time. Since then, the event has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars and donations, all to feed the area’s hungry.

The North Quabbin Food-A-Thon took place Tuesday, with volunteers posted in Orange and Athol to take donations benefiting five pantries: Orange Food Pantry and the Community Meals Program in Orange (both parts of the Franklin County Community Meals Program); Our Lady Immaculate Pantry in Athol; the Salvation Army Pantry and Meal Program in Athol; St. Vincent DePaul Pantry of St. Mary’s Church in Orange; and Good Neighbors Pantry in Wendell.

According to Ed Hebert of Good Neighbors Pantry, the annual North Quabbin Food-A-Thon is “the big one” when it comes to food drives.

“(The donations) last a while and it helps the rest of the year,” said Hebert, in his ninth year volunteering at the event.

Organizers said Orange’s two elementary schools — Fisher Hill Elementary School and Dexter Park Innovation School — alone donated more than 3,000 food items.

Classrooms challenged each other to see who could donate the most in a friendly competition, and then brought the items in red wagons to the Food-A-Thon in the morning. Dexter Park gave 2,400 items, and Fisher Hill gave 825.

Donations came in the form of canned goods, bagged and bakeable items, as well as jarred sauces and condiments.

People were donating money, too, Hebert said, with one person dropping off a check of $500 to the donation hub in downtown Orange.

Hebert said the most impressive thing about the event is seeing the community come together for a common cause, including larger businesses and organizations.

“Walmart is stepping up, Hannaford’s is stepping up, everyone is stepping up,” Hebert said.

Volunteers collected the nonperishable food items and money was collected on Main Streets in Orange and Athol, as well as at Hannaford’s, Walmart and Market Basket grocery stores.

Food was also gathered at local businesses and by community groups like Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops. All the food was brought to the downtown parking lot in Orange by 6 p.m., and then divided among the five pantries.

In the 16 years leading up to this year’s event, the food drive had brought in a total of nearly $415,000. Last year, more than 11,000 items were donated. According to lead organizer Kathy Schiappa of St. Vincent DePaul Pantry, it will take several days before a full tally is available for this year.

Now in her 16th year volunteering, Schiappa said the volume of items donated varies each year. However, with the two elementary schools donating about 3,225 items, and many more coming from organizations and individual donors, this year should be considered successful, Schiappa said. About a dozen pallets stacked with boxes of donated goods were anticipated by volunteers, she said.

Also volunteering was Clifford Fournier, 87. Fournier said he is driven to feed the hungry. Growing up in Orange during the Great Depression, he remembers having very little food in the house, sometimes having to resort to oyster crackers with butter and vinegar meals.

Today, on a weekly basis, Fournier delivers to four pantries and three food sites after driving to area stores and picking up donations. He also previously organized the twice-a-week Orange Community Meal at Bethany Lutheran Church for more than a decade, and still works at Good Neighbors Pantry in Wendell.

“I figure I give food to about 700 to 800 people a week,” Fournier said.

Despite being the first one to see weekly area food donations, Fournier said nothing meets the magnitude of the North Quabbin Food-A-Thon.

The 16th annual North Quabbin Food-A-Thon was sponsored by the Orange Historical Society; Pete’s Tire Barns; Hannaford Supermarket; Athol-Orange Community Television and WVAO; Walmart; Witty’s Funeral Home; Market Basket; Lyman Signs; The Highland Press and Lyman Excavating, with local businesses donating food to feed volunteers, including Diemand Farm, Friendly Town Pizza, The Pizza Factory, Hannaford Supermarket and Walmart.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.




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