Thanksgiving Holiday Offers Opportunity of Meaningful Community Service in Western MA
Healthy living requires not only healthy food, but access to food in general. For many families in western Massachusetts, access to food is provided by community organizations that run food pantries and community meals. These organizations – vital to our communities – depend on community support, and rely on donations and volunteers in order to provide the essential services that they offer. This Thanksgiving, families can participate in community service by helping out with a community meal offered by a local organization. Taking place in numerous locations and hosted by a range of different organizations, community Thanksgiving meals help to offer a special meal to those who may not be able to prepare one on their own, who might not have anyone to share Thankgiving dinner with, and also offer families an opportunity to engage in an intergenerational holiday celebration with a diverse group of people.
While some community organizations have age requirements for volunteers or require an application process and specific time commitment, some organizations are happy to have families’ help just for one day (or maybe even one hour!) when special holiday meals are being offered. In addition to offering people-power for food preparation and serving, families can help to ensure that such celebrations can take place by donating food (or funding for food) to be part of the meal. Adding to the bounty or helping to prepare or serve the meal is a very meaningful way to give back to your community – not only will you be providing nourishment to folks who might have gone without, you’ll be helping to cultivate community amongst the meal’s attendees and volunteers, while providing service-based learning opportunities for your children.
Families who aren’t able to volunteer can attend community meals simply to participate in the community aspect of the events. Attending such an event requires a family’s intention to build community amongst those they share their lives with, and participating in intergenerational socializing (and meal sharing) is a perfect way to accomplish this goal. Community meals draw a wide variety of folks from all walks of life, and attending such an event affords families the opportunity to connect, learn, and build bridges between otherwise disconnected groups within the community.
To learn more about how to offer community service or to find a community meal to attend, check out some of the events and community resources:
Amherst – Not Bread Alone Soup Kitchen offers a community meal on Thanksgiving Day, in addition to weekend and Wednesday meals. Anyone and everyone is welcome to be part of the holiday celebration, or any other meal! Located on the lower level of the First Congregational Church. 413-548-1271. 165 Main Street.
Amherst – Join the Amherst Survival Center for their annual Pre-Thanksgiving Community Meal, which is held the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (November 26th) from 1-2:30pm. Located at Immanuel Lutheran Church. 413-549-3968. 867 North Pleasant Street.
Chicopee – Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen offers a Thanksgiving community meal at the Knights of Columbus Castle of Knights, and all are welcome! Additionally, the kitchen offers meals to the community every weekday at 5pm. 413-592-5928. 1599 Memorial Drive.
Greenfield – Celebrate Thanksgiving and support The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts at The People’s Pint’s second annual Thanksgiving for the People. Traditional Thanksgiving dinner will be served at 2pm, is open to anyone and is free of charge. Donations will be collected for The Food Bank. 413-773-0333. 24 Federal Street.
Greenfield – Stone Soup Cafe offers a weekly Saturday meal, with the intention to provide healthy, delicious (and local when possible) food and to build community amongst its patrons. Located at All Souls Church (use Olive Street entrance). 399 Main Street.
Northampton – Located at Edwards Church, the MANNA Soup Kitchen generally offers a community Thanksgiving meal, and offers evening meals on Wednesdays and lunch on Saturdays year-round. 413-584-1757. 297 Main Street.
Great Barrington – The Guthrie Center hosts a Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day for those in need or who are alone or without family. Doors open at 12:30pm and dinner starts at 1pm. Space is limited and participants should call to reserve space. 413-528-1955. 2 Van Deusenville Road.
Holyoke – Margaret’s Pantry welcomes volunteers to help distribute food to local community members! Food distribution at the pantry depends on referrals, and distribution takes place thanks largely to donations. 413-538-8026. 56 Cabot Street.
Northampton – The Northampton Survival Center makes food and other necessities accessible to community members, and welcomes volunteer support. Volunteers may help distribute food to 25-50 families in a single day – a significant community contribution! 413-586-6564. 265 Prospect Street.
Turners Falls – Volunteers at the Franklin Area Survival Center help to stock items, making them easily accessible for folks utilizing the center’s resources. The survival center offers food and other essentials, as well as a thrift store. 413-863-9549. 96 Fourth Street.
North Adams – The Berkshire Food Project offers meals five days a week, and welcomes all community members. Volunteer opportunities are available, though there is an application process! Located at the First Congregational Church. 413-664-7378. 134 Main Street.
Springfield – Each year The Springfield Rescue Mission has a Thanksgiving Banquet, serving thousands of meals in the days surrounding Thanksgiving. This provides a place where hungry and homeless men, women and families take part in a family-style holiday gathering, receiving a complete Thanksgiving meal in a warm, loving environment. The Mission hosts a Thanksgiving Meal Delivery, Thanksgiving Community Dinner and a Thanksgiving Community Breakfast. Volunteers are needed and will help prepare the Thanksgiving dining room and serve the dinner meal for residents and the public followed by clean up. They are also in need of food donations. 413-732-0808. 19 Bliss Street.
[Photo credit: (cc) Tim Sackton ]