Broad partnership results in pre-Thanksgiving food, clothing distribution

  • Jamie Young, Caroline Murray and Sue Samoriski of the Mary Lyon Foundation with hats and mittens to go along with food being disptributed at the Ashfield Congregational Church. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Rick Chandler of the Hilltown Churches food pantry fills bags with food for families at the Ashfield Congregational Church. Sue Samoriski of the Mary Lyon Foundation stands in the doorway. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Hilltown Churches Food Pantry in Ashfield fills bags with food for families at the Ashfield Congregational Church. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Kay Gilbert of Plainfield packs up her car with food from the Hilltown Churches food pantry in Ashfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Report
Published: 11/18/2020 3:32:25 PM

ASHFIELD — Thanks to the combined efforts of six churches, an educational nonprofit, an elementary school and a local chapter of a nationally recognized patriotic organization, families with children received bags of groceries, $100 food vouchers and an opportunity to select handmade hats, scarves, mittens and gloves at the First Congregational Church of Ashfield on Tuesday.

While the occasion marked the regular pre-Thanksgiving food distribution in Ashfield, volunteers delivered an extra touch of holiday spirit by way of the vouchers and winter clothing, made by members of the Betty Allen Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

“We have been forging partnerships for the betterment of the West County community for three decades,” said Sue Samoriski, executive director of the Mary Lyon Foundation, a nonprofit that mainly supports excellence in education, but that also plays a role in addressing food and clothing access. “The strength of working together not only lightens the load, but provides a clear path to success.”

Tuesday’s efforts were borne out of a partnership between the Mary Lyon Foundation, the Hilltown Churches Food Pantry based at the First Congregational Church of Ashfield, DAR’s Betty Allen Chapter and Colrain Central School’s Service Learning Coordinator Talia Miller, who has been working with first-graders around food security issues. The children created cards with messages of love, peace and hope that were then added to the grocery bags.

Samoriski cited how the pandemic has unwittingly forged new relationships among organizations with similar goals, who have had to think outside the box to help families in need.

She explained that at the onset of the pandemic, the Mary Lyon Foundation provided fresh food and bags of groceries, supported by $30,000 in grants from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in conjunction with the United Way of Franklin County. The grants also allowed for collaboration with other organizations, such as the Hilltown Churches Food Pantry.

Managed by Ashfield resident Pat Thayer, the Hilltown Churches Food Pantry serves clients from 11 towns and is supported by six churches. Supplemental food is provided biweekly (on Tuesdays), primarily through monetary donations but often with donations of food and other products. Most of its goods comes from the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

The final organization with a hand in Tuesday’s food and clothing distribution efforts, DAR’s Betty Allen Chapter in Northampton, has partnered with the Mary Lyon Foundation for five years, “knitting and crocheting hats, scarves, mittens and gloves in order to provide warmth and comfort, which in turn help students succeed,” said Chapter Regent Kathy Bruffee Maleno.

“This is one of many ways in which we, the DAR, serve our respective communities,” Bruffee Maleno said, “and carry forward our mission of historic preservation, patriotism and education.”


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