Spring Cleaning Opportunities Promote Environmental Stewardship and Service-Based Learning

Spring Cleaning Opportunities Promote Environmental Stewardship and Service-Based Learning

Western Massachusetts is filled with beautiful and well-preserved public natural spaces. With the arrival of spring comes the triumphant return of families to parks, trails, mountains, and rivers, whose unique treasures are easier to enjoy in the absence of snow and ice. In preparation for the exodus from indoors to out, local parks and public lands undergo a bit of spring cleaning, so as to ensure that visitors can explore safely in well-maintained spaces. Late April brings a multitude of opportunities to engage in environmental stewardship and service learning, offering community service projects for volunteers of all ages at a wide variety of local parks, trails, campgrounds, and other public outdoor spaces.  Read the rest of this entry »

Lend your Voice to Close the SNAP Gap

Closing the “SNAP Gap” for 570,000 hungry Massachusetts residents

At The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, we have a vision of a region where no one goes hungry, and everyone has access to healthy food. Unfortunately, there are still thousands of our neighbors who are going to bed hungry despite the fact that we provided the equivalent of 9.2 million meals last year. From young children to vulnerable seniors, the overwhelming reach of food insecurity in our community continues to widen.

A recent White House report revealed that the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the most effective methods of lifting people (especially children) out of poverty. SNAP has a dramatic impact in our region. Last year, SNAP provided vital food assistance to 150,000 people in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties, allowing them to purchase healthy food from local grocery stores, farmers’ markets and farm stands. Not only did SNAP feed so many people, but it also injected nearly $20 million of federal nutrition dollars into our local economy. Read the rest of this entry »

New Year’s Resolution: Volunteering with Your Family

New Year’s Resolution: Volunteering

Volunteers help pack bags of food at a Brown Bag: Food for Elders distribution location.

Each day, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts relies on the hard work and dedication of our volunteers that share our vision of a Western Massachusetts where no one goes hungry and everyone has access to healthy food. Their tireless work and generous support are just one of the many “ingredients” in the recipe to end hunger.
With the need for emergency food in our region continuing to grow, it takes many hands — all working together — to help feed our neighbors in need. Read the rest of this entry »

Family Volunteer Day with Hilltown Families & The Food Bank in the New Year

Winter months put further strain on struggling households

On a chilly December morning, Volunteers at a Mobile Food Bank distribution in the north end of Springfield finish setting up, as they await the arrival of hundreds of individuals in need of assistance. — In partnership with Hilltown Families, The Food Bank will be hosting our January Family Volunteer Day on Saturday, January 16 from 9 – 11 a.m. All ages are welcome, as families are invited to help prepare food to be distributed to our neighbors in need across Western Massachusetts.

As the days and nights grow colder in Western Massachusetts, we are reminded of the thousands of low-income families that will be forced to choose between heat and hunger this winter season. High costs of heat will further strain the budgets of households already struggle to make ends meet, forcing them to turn to food pantries, soup kitchens and other community agencies to access emergency food. It most instances, these community agencies — many of which are experiencing a slump in donations following the holidays — find it increasing difficult to keep up with the high demand in the winter months.

In a recent report produced by Feeding America, it was determined that many families in Western Massachusetts that are struggling with food insecurity are already faced with crucial choices to keep food on the table. 61 percent reported choosing between paying for food and paying for utilities (such as heat and water). 59 percent reported having to make a choice between food and medicine/medical care. In addition, 53 percent reported choosing between paying for food and paying for housing. Read the rest of this entry »

Knitting Supports Explorations of History, Agriculture & Mathematics

Cast On for Explorations of Math, Local History, and Service-Based Learning Through Knitting

An age-old skill, knitting provides us with some of our most treasured warm clothes. Learning the art of knitting can not only help to provide warmth, but can lead to explorations of local history, local agriculture, and complex math – and families can even engage in service-based learning by donating hand-knitted goods to help support people in need!

Winter means the wearing of layers – some of our most treasured of which have been hand-knitted with love. Mittens from nana, sweaters from mum, scarves from caring neighbors – all of these handmade warmth-giving items are precious, not only because of the love and care that went into making them, but because of their connection to our agrarian history and the learning opportunities that they can spark. Learning to knit (whether self-taught or guided by an expert) is a creative endeavor like no other, and can lead to explorations of history, culture, complex mathematical concepts, art, and even service-based learning!

Drawing upon western Massachusetts’ rich fiber culture, families can find numerous resources to support knitting-based studies of sheep and shepherding. While sheep usually steal the springtime barnyard show, sheep-based learning can take place any time of year with a few skeins of yarn and some needles! Once upon a time, all yarn would have come from hand-carded wool and been hand-spun, but these days, most woolen yarn is processed in a factory. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to get locally-sourced yarns (and even hand-spun local yarns!) by doing a little research and shopping locally. CISA offers a list of nearly twenty fiber-producing farms in western MA, proving that the tradition of local wool is still alive today!  Read the rest of this entry »

Fostering Service Dogs: Service-Based Learning for Animal Lovers!

Fostering Service Dogs: Service-Based Learning for Animal Lovers!

Helping to provide much needed support for humans, service dogs are truly some of man’s best friends. Local families can engage in service-based learning by fostering future service dogs, giving them a loving home while helping to support their training. Information sessions are held weekly for interested local families!

We’ve touted the benefits of engaging in service-based learning by fostering pets from a local shelter – families get to enjoy the benefits of having pets at home through a short-term commitment, and can engage in meaningful learning about the value of their service while caring for animals in need. Now, there’s another way to engage in service-based learning with animals: fostering service-dogs-in-training! Requiring a longer commitment than fostering shelter animals, helping to raise a future service dog not only helps the dog, but will help a human in need as well! Service dogs, once trained, offer a canine lifetime’s worth of help and support to humans with a wide variety of unique needs – and local foster families are in high demand! Read the rest of this entry »

7 Community Thanksgiving Meals & Volunteer Opportunities in Western MA

Thanksgiving Community Meals Promote Community Engagement Through Service-Based Learning

Taking place across western Massachusetts, community meals held around Thanksgiving offer opportunities for communities to connect through food and for families to give back to their communities. Families can donate food (like homemade pies made with your kids!), volunteer at events, or attend community meals in order to help build community!

Healthy living begins not with healthy food, but with access to food in general. For many families in western Massachusetts, access to food is made possible by community organizations that run food pantries and serve 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 and spread kindness by helping out with a holiday community meal. Community Thanksgiving meals help to offer a holiday celebration to those who may not be able to prepare one on their own or who might not have anyone to share Thanksgiving dinner with, and also offer families an opportunity to engage in an intergenerational holiday celebration with a diverse group of people.  Read the rest of this entry »

“Giving at Thanksgiving” Family Volunteer Day with Hilltown Families at The Food Bank

Coming together to end hunger

At a Family Volunteer Day earlier this year, families work together to sort and pack fresh produce to be distributed to our neighbors in need throughout the four counties of Western Massachusetts.

While getting food to people facing hunger is essential throughout the entire year, it takes on special significance during these holiday months. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, food is on the minds of many people. But, probably none more so than those that are forced to go without during times that are supposed to be plentiful.

Currently in Western Massachusetts, there are more than 235,000 people that rely on food pantries, meal sites, shelters, and other emergency programs to get food. An estimated 33,580 of them are children under the age of 18 (according to Feeding America, the national network of food banks). Of these, 22% (or about 7,000 children) are from households that don’t qualify to receive SNAP benefits, but yet their income is still too low to pay for basic household expenses and put adequate food on the table.   Read the rest of this entry »

How Local Farms Support Food Security in Western MA

Local Farms Help Cultivate Our Community

Last year, local farms contributed a more than 480,000 pounds of fresh produce to The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

We are fortunate to live in a very special part of the country, allowing for the growth and harvest of a multitude of fresh fruits and vegetables. There is a seemingly endless number of farms in our region, many of which generously provide a portion of their annual harvest to The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts throughout the year. Their commitment to helping feed our neighbors in need has continued to strengthen our community.  Read the rest of this entry »

Solving Hunger: Keeping Communities Healthy & Strong

Healthy Food Leads to Stronger Community

Volunteers prepare to distribute healthy food at a Mobile Food Bank distribution site in Springfield last summer.

There is more than enough food in America to feed every man, woman and child. Yet, here in Western Massachusetts, more than 235,000 people are at risk of hunger and health problems that come with not having enough nutritious food to eat. As individuals, charities, businesses and government, we all have a role to play in getting more food to people in need. Together, we can solve hunger and help keep our communities healthy and strong.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts & Hilltown Families present Family Volunteer Days!

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts &
Hilltown Families present Family Volunteer Days!

Volunteering together teaches children positive values, like kindness, empathy and tolerance, and opens up channels of communication between parent and child. Engaging children in community service can increase their participation as future volunteers, helping to create more resilient and sustainable communities.

Over the years, Hilltown Families has partnered with The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in several ways, offering families in the region opportunities to engage in service-based learning while volunteering together as a family in support of food security in our region. We’ve organized a field trip and a couple of virtual food drives and told you how you could organize your own field trips and food drives too. We’ve given you a heads-up on youth volunteer opportunities, services for families during summer months, and resources to support child(ren)/student’s learning of hunger and food security, including Children’s Books on Food Security/Scarcity and Youth Against Hunger Education Curriculum.

One of the issues participants learned during our field trip was how difficult it can be for some families to have access to fresh organic fruits and vegetables. In response, we organized a station at our Family Community Service Event to empowered families to learn how to grow an extra row of vegetables in their home gardens to harvest and donate to their local food pantries, and collaborated with local business and farms to offer gleaning opportunities for families.

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts &
Hilltown Families present Family Volunteer Days!

Families continue to seek out new ways to spend time together that supports values and learning, and volunteering as a family at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts is great way to do just that! In partnership with Hilltown Families, families are invited to attend a series of monthly volunteer sessions where they will help sort food, take part in educational activities, and learn how to take actions to help fight hunger. Volunteering together as a family encourages quality time, increases communication, and provides opportunities for family members to be role models.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hunger Action Month Empowers Our Community to Support Food Security

You can take action to support our community during Hunger Action Month

You can ‘Go Orange’ on Thursday, September 3 to help raise awareness of food insecurity. Share your photos on social media, using #HungerAction.

September is Hunger Action Month, a time when the Feeding America nationwide network of food banks unite and ask everyone to take action to fight hunger in their community. It is your opportunity to join a movement that has a real and lasting impact on our effort to feed more people than ever before.

Hunger affects communities all across our region—rural, urban and suburban. In cities and towns across Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties, more than 235,000 people struggle with food insecurity. As individuals, charities, businesses and government, we all have a role to play in getting food to our neighbors in need. During Hunger Action Month, you can find a way that’s right for you to make a difference. There are a number of ways to help, including raising awareness of hunger issues, advocating for change, donating food and funds, or volunteering your time and skills. We all have a role to play in getting food to our neighbors in need.

Here are just a few of the opportunities you have to get involved:  Read the rest of this entry »

Family Volunteer Day Summer Series Supports Food Security All Summer Long

Hunger Doesn’t Take a Summer Vacation

During the summer months of June, July and August, food pantries and meal sites across Western Mass. see a 45% increase in visits over the holiday season. (Photo courtesy of Feeding America)

By now, you’ve probably heard the national news about a public school kitchen manager in Colorado who was fired for giving a free lunch to a crying first grader who was hungry. The manager was fired because the child wasn’t officially qualified for the federally-subsidized lunch program. However, what you may not have heard is that thousands of kids in schools across Western Massachusetts are in this same situation. They are relying on cafeteria staff, teachers and even their classmates to feed them because they don’t have enough food at home.

With so many families struggling with free or reduced school meals, image the challenges they face in the summer when those meals disappear. June, July and August are, by far, the busiest months for our member agencies in Western Massachusetts (which includes food pantries, meal sites and shelters). Approximately 44,665 individuals were served at our member agencies during those three months last year. That’s nearly a 45% increase over the winter months of December, January and February.  Read the rest of this entry »

Family Volunteer Day Summer Series Supplements Food Deserts in Western MA

Food Deserts in Western MA Leaves Many Families Without Access to Healthy Food

Residents of a Springfield community line-up to receive fresh and non-perishable healthy food from The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts’ Mobile Food Bank. To learn more about Family Volunteer Day, including other dates throughout the summer, check out the post, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts & Hilltown Families present Family Volunteer Days!.

The USDA defines a food deserts as a part of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods. They are typically found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers. These areas rely heavily on local convenience stores that provide a wealth of processed sugar- and fat-laden foods that are known contributors to our nation’s obesity epidemic. The USDA has identified several areas right here in Western Massachusetts considered to be food deserts.

As the leader of emergency food assistance in our region, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts has been working to reach these communities to ensure that everyone has access to fresh, healthy food. It’s been nearly two years since we launched our pilot program for the Mobile Food Bank — a delivery truck full of fresh and non-perishable groceries from our warehouse in Hatfield, shipped directly to a community site. The program reaches underserved populations throughout our region that don’t have access to fresh, healthy food. These food deserts lack local grocery stores, farmers’ markets and other healthy food providers. Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Play: Helping Your Local Animal Shelter Through Creative-Free Play

What to Play? by Carrie St. John

Play and Community Service

Adopting, fostering, and pet taxing are a few ways families can help local animal shelters. Making toys for animals while waiting to be adopted is yet another way to support shelters while encouraging creative-free play at home. This month in “What to Play: Play Ideas for Family & Community,” Carrie shares several DIY projects families can do together to support our furry friends and the agencies that care for them.

It is the beginning of kitten season at the local animal shelters. From spring into summer the shelters are inundated with kittens! They are dropped off in boxes left at entrances overnight. Many are brought in because families are overcome with the work and dedication needed to take care of a litter of tiny babies. Some arrive with their mother or when a soon to deliver mother is surrendered. The main cause is lack of spaying. Many are so small they are not healthy or strong enough to be adopted out. Those tiny ones might spend time in a kitten ICU or go to live with caring foster families while they gain strength and put on weight.

This year we are not able to foster. We are missing the experience. The tiny kittens have so much love, cuddles and silly play to share. It is a great experience to watch them grow, to teach them to eat solids and even to figure out the best way to provide needed medications. Kittens do not like medications. We failed as fosters last year by adopting a “tuxedo” from the last batch of siblings we had in May. Many foster families fail and joke about this. We get attached to the tiny ones and adopt. Our two furry boys have taken over so we no longer have the spare room to devote to fosters. Adopting from our last foster group was a bonus for our family in many ways. My daughter has the lap cat she has been hoping to have for years. They are inseparable. He cries in her room when she has a sleepover or play date and does not come home at the end of the day. He watches her brush her teeth. She has trained him to use a leash and play fetch. A perfect match. I have to say it is nice to have him in our family. Oh, and he has a safe home to call his own forever and a big orange brother to sleep with.

One day we will foster again. We want to help those tiny babies get a great start on life.  Read the rest of this entry »

The River’s Song Blends Art & Science While Supporting Community-Based Learning

The River’s Song Celebrates Connecticut River with
Wonderful Range of Events

What does drumming, spoken word, hands-on art making, environmentally-themed storytime, and a parade have to do with the Connecticut River? It’s all a part of The River’s Song, a community celebration that combines art, local history, and community-based learning opportunities to create an event that honors and celebrates the Connecticut River, the Pioneer Valley’s natural artery.

Held on Saturday, May 16th at locations throughout downtown Turners Falls, The River’s Song is a unique community celebration in that its offerings are quite diverse, yet are all still directly related to the Connecticut River and its role both in the local landscape and in our lives. With events beginning at 9am and running past 9pm, The River’s Song offers over 12 hours of river-themed play and learning.  Read the rest of this entry »

Recognizing and Supporting Seniors during Older Americans Month

‘Get into the Act’

Senior volunteers have fun and prepare bags of groceries to be distributed through The Food Bank’s Brown Bag: Food for Elders program. Click here to register to join The Food Bank and Hilltown Families for another free Family Volunteer Day on Saturday, May 9 from 9-11:30am.

In May, the nation will be celebrating Older Americans Month to recognize seniors’ contributions and provide them with resources to stay healthy and active. Older adults are a vital part of our society. Since 1963, communities across the country have shown their gratitude by celebrating Older Americans Month each May. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Get into the Act,” to focus on how seniors are taking charge of their health, getting engaged in their communities, and making a positive impact in the lives of others.

Throughout the country, older Americans face a number of unique challenges that contribute to food insecurity. Many seniors are living on fixed incomes that often force them to choose between paying for healthcare or prescriptions and buying groceries. Although food insecurity affects people of all ages, seniors are particularly vulnerable because they have unique nutritional needs related to aging and/or medical conditions.  Read the rest of this entry »

National Volunteer Month & Beyond Boosts Service-Based Learning

Over 16 Volunteer Opportunities to Connect with Your Community & Community Treasures

Participating in community spring clean-ups gives families the opportunity to engage in community service together while promoting civic engagement and strengthening a sense of place in youth participants.

As spring warms the landscape across western Massachusetts, opportunities for outdoor adventures increase exponentially. What might have been a ski or snowshoe trek to search for animal tracks just a month ago would now be a muddy hike to search for vernal pools. However, in order to truly appreciate the wonderful outdoor spaces available to us, it’s important to lend a hand in readying local parks and trails for the season!

During National Volunteer Month, many local parks and trails are in need of some restoration, and there are plenty of upcoming opportunities for families to volunteer their time to prepare such locations for warm weather visitors. In addition to providing a much needed (and much appreciated) service to the community, participating in a spring clean-up effort is a great way to learn the specifics of local outdoor spaces. In helping to ready garden beds for spring, families can learn about how, when, and why certain plant varieties are planted. Similarly, families with older children can learn by helping out with trail maintenance – an activity that will help volunteers to learn about how trails are created and how (and why) they require such maintenance. Read the rest of this entry »

Build Community & Inspire Change During National Volunteer Month

National Volunteer Month provides opportunities for the entire family to support the community

Families from across Western Massachusetts joined together at a recent Family Volunteer Day held at The Food Bank to sort and pack fresh produce. The food is distributed through The Fook Bank’s ‘Mobile Food Bank’ and ‘Brown Bag: Food for Elders’ programs, to food insecure families throughout the region.

April in National Volunteer Month — a time when we celebrate and honor the people who dedicate themselves to taking action and support their community. The month-long celebration is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. By working together, we can meet our challenges and accomplish all of our goals.

One of the best aspects of volunteering is that there are so many different reasons to get involved. It’s a fun opportunity to meet new people, network and gain new working skills. It’s also a great way to help an organization that aligns with your personal values and beliefs. Most importantly, volunteering is the best way to support your community.

At The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, we rely on the continued efforts of our volunteers to help us provide healthy food to the more than 235,000 people in our region struggling with food insecurity. We asked some of our volunteers why they donate their time to us. Here’s what they had to say:  Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Vernal Pools

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: March Segment
Vernal Pools: Natural Habitats & Local Species as Community Resources

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield,  joins Mass Appeal hosts, Ashley Kohl and Seth Stutman, to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Thursday, March 26, 2015, highlighting how local habitats and native species can be used as a catalyst for learning. Through the lens of Vernal Pools and the animals that depend on them for survival, Sienna shares three methods of engagement as a way to support interests and education via Vernal Pools:


Vernal Pools: Methods of Engagement that Support Community-Based Learning

When looking for community-based resources that support learning via the lens of vernal pools, consider nature center, conservation organizations and your local library.

Phenology-based activities coincide with the natural changing of our seasons (our ultimate accessible community-based educational resource) and are great catalysts for learning through community engagement. Maple syrup season, filled with delicious community activities and opportunities, is our most recent seasonal activity here in Western MA.  But can you name other seasonal events coming our way as winter transitions into spring? The one we want to highlight this month is Vernal Pools!

As the seasons transition and habitats and animals respond to the change in weather and climate, Vernal Pools begin to emerge and come to life based on the timing of this change and the relationship plants and animals have with their environment! Taking advantage of these changes and getting out into your community to participate in nature-based learning activities will support the development of skills and integrated learning in a wide variety of subjects.

Methods of engagement as they relate to Vernal Pools can include nature-based learning, service-based learning and citizen scientist, and the embedded learning families can extracted from these engagement opportunities can range from ecology to natural history, entomology to zoology, scientific process to art!

The following methods of engagement and events highlight these community-based resources and the embedded learning you can extract from participation: Read the rest of this entry »

Nutrition Month Reminds Us What Eating “Well” Truly Means

Nutrition plays active role in supporting the community

Join us to honor National Nutrition Month. The Food Bank and Hilltown Families are holding a very special Family Volunteer Day at our Hatfield facility on Saturday, March 21. In addition to learning about hunger in our region and helping to prepare food for distribution, the event will also focus on healthy eating habits by providing a fun cooking demonstration. Click here to learn more about this event and how your family can participate.

March is National Nutrition Month — a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of making informed choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. It highlights the value of adopting eating and physical activity plans  focused on consuming fewer calories and getting daily exercise in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote overall health.

Hunger is not just about lack of food. It’s also about lack of nutritious food. That’s why, at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, we are dedicated to providing our neighbors in need with the healthiest foods possible. Every year, our farm in Hadley provides 100,000 pounds of fresh, chemical-free produce for us to distribute to our member agencies (including pantries, meal sites and shelters). We also work closely with many local farmers, who generously donated more than 266,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables in 2014. In the past year, our Mobile Food Bank has provided hundreds of thousands of pounds of produce directly to families in areas when they may not otherwise have access. Read the rest of this entry »

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts & Hilltown Families present Family Volunteer Days!

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts &
Hilltown Families present Family Volunteer Days!

Volunteering together teaches children positive values, like kindness, empathy and tolerance, and opens up channels of communication between parent and child. Engaging children in community service can increase their participation as future volunteers, helping to create more resilient and sustainable communities.

Over the years, Hilltown Families has partnered with The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in several ways, offering families in the region opportunities to engage in service-based learning while volunteering together as a family in support of food security in our region. We’ve organized a field trip and a couple of virtual food drives and told you how you could organize your own field trips and food drives too. We’ve given you a heads-up on youth volunteer opportunities, services for families during summer months, and resources to support child(ren)/student’s learning of hunger and food security, including Children’s Books on Food Security/Scarcity and Youth Against Hunger Education Curriculum.

One of the issues participants learned during our field trip was how difficult it can be for some families to have access to fresh organic fruits and vegetables. In response, we organized a station at our Family Community Service Event to empowered families to learn how to grow an extra row of vegetables in their home gardens to harvest and donate to their local food pantries, and collaborated with local business and farms to offer gleaning opportunities for families.

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts &
Hilltown Families present Family Volunteer Days!

Families continue to seek out new ways to spend time together that supports values and learning, and volunteering as a family at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts is great way to do just that! In partnership with Hilltown Families, families are invited to attend a series of monthly volunteer sessions where they will help sort food, take part in educational activities, and learn how to take actions to help fight hunger. Volunteering together as a family encourages quality time, increases communication, and provides opportunities for family members to be role models.  Read the rest of this entry »

Six Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2015

Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in western Massachusetts, 2015

Next week, the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 19th, 2015, presents families with a three-day weekend. Instead of spending your extra day off sleeping in and lazing around the house, highlight the historical significance of the holiday for your family and find a way to make it meaningful. Families can find special events and service opportunities taking place across western Massachusetts, each of which presents students with the chance to learn experientially about the history of oppression in our country, community activism, and the importance of kindness and a commitment to serve others. Here are six ways to celebrate with your community and family in meaning ways in western MA: Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event Generates 600 Hours of Community Service in a Single Morning!

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Supports Western MA Non-Profit & Community Organizations through Service-Based Learning!

This past Saturday, November 22nd, was the third Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event, a one of a kind event for families to volunteer together in a morning of community service! From teens to tots to grandparents, over 200 folks were able to generate 600 hours of community service at this intergenerational event for different non-profit and community organizations in our region that support education, children’s welfare, and human services.

This year our event was held on national Family Volunteering Day at Leeds Elementary School in Northampton, MA. Together, families traveled to five different community service stations with a Community Service Passport in hand, participating in facilitated hands-on projects to benefit non-profit & community organizations throughout Western MA:

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Just like the non-profit organizations Hilltown Families supports during our Family Community Service Events, Hilltown Families is a non-profit organization too… and we need your help so we can continue to support education through community engagement, including service-based learning experiences. Donate to Hilltown Families and double the impact of your giving dollars!

Part of the mission of Hilltown Families is to create, connect and collaborate in service-based learning experiences through community engagement. Acting as a bridge between Western MA non-profits and service organizations, Hilltown Families is able to amplify the work of these community groups by connecting families to said organizations through service-based learning opportunities.

Thank you to all of the families, volunteers, facilitators and sponsors who joined us! The event was a great success with over 200 folks participating in a celebratory morning of family community service! Together we were able to:


VOLUNTEERS WANTED

We look forward to hosting more Family Community Service Events, but we can’t do it without your help!  Want to join our Community Service Committee? We want to hear from you: Read the rest of this entry »

2014 Thanksgiving Volunteer Opportunities in Western MA

Thanksgiving Holiday Offers Opportunity of Meaningful Community Service in Western MA

As Thanksgiving approaches, families can integrate food-related community service into their schedules in order to honor the role that food plays in the holiday’s celebration. From community meals to food pantries to other food-related community resources, opportunities abound for families to engage in service or to participate in a community-building meal.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

We’re entering our 10th year with a first! Join us!

Hilltown Families enters 10th year!
Support us in our 1st Annual Appeal.


This December, Hilltown Families will be entering our 10th year! We will also be participating in our 1st ever Annual Appeal through Valley Gives on December 10th!

For the next few weeks we will be posting a weekly update with exciting news about our Annual Appeal campaign leading up to December 10th, including ways you can participate with us, premiums we will be offering on December 10th, and showcasing Hilltown Families’ highlights.

Supporting Education through Community Engagement

For nearly a decade, Hilltown Families has been working towards creating resilient and sustainable communities by developing and strengthening a sense of place in our children and citizens through community-based education and engagement.

In this TEDx Talk, “Supporting Education Through Community Engagement,” Hilltown Families Founder, Sienna Wildfield, shares her story on why feeling connected to where you live matters, and how community-based education and community-service learning can help grow active citizens who care about where they live.

We Need Your Help!

Are you already a fan of Hilltown Families?  Join our virtual Street Team!!!  Get social with us and share Hilltown Families on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, email and your blogs!  As we get closer to December 10th we’ll be asking our virtual Street Team to rally for Hilltown Families, inviting friend, fans and family to support Hilltown Families with a donation during Valley Gives Day.

To get started, connect with us through our various social media channels.

Then get busy Liking, Sharing, Tweeting, and Pinning our updates, letting those in your own social networks know why you support Hilltown Families and your plans to make a donation of any size on December 10th.

Beginning December 1st we’ll have specific Call to Action requests for our virtual Street Team members! “Join” our Street Team Event Page on Facebook and get real time updates in your Facebook newsfeed!

Matching Grant

Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts’  Meet Your Match Bonus is one way you can help us raise over $7,500 on December 10th This is a special competition only for nonprofits that secure matches for Valley Gives Day. Bonus awards will be announced at the end of the day and will be chosen randomly. Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts will award $2,500 to 25 randomly selected nonprofits that meet their matches. Minimum match must be $2,500.

If you’re a BIG BIG fan of Hilltown Families and can support us with a donation of $500 or more, your donation can be pooled together with other supporters to create a matching grant of $2,500. Please email Rick Feldman or Sienna Wildfield to make arrangements prior to Valley Gives Day.

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event: November 22nd!

Halloween Candy Collection Shows Kindness to Others

Halloween Candy: Catalyst Towards Service Based Learning

After the magic of Halloween has ended and bits of costumes have been strewn about the house, kids are left with fond memories and gigantic piles of candy. While the candy can be of moderate educational value, it primarily serves as an unnecessary dietary supplement that, if well-rationed, can hang around the house for months to come. As much as most children love to eat candy, health-conscious parents may not want the collected treats to hang around and be consumed. On Nov 1 in Easthampton, Easthampton CrossFit will be collecting unwanted candy to donate to Operation Gratitude!

Halloween brings haunted hayrides, cute costumes, and more candy than anyone needs–or even wants–to eat. This year, families can use Halloween candy as a catalyst toward community service by getting rid of unwanted candy and helping our troops at the same time. On Saturday, November 1, at a “Halloween Candy Give Back,” Easthampton CrossFit will accept donations of candy to be sent to the troops serving overseas through Operation Gratitude, a California-based non-profit that sends military care packages.

“Halloween candy brings a memory of home,” says Jim Rego, a military veteran and a coach at the gym. By donating their candy to the troops, children can learn about service and giving back, and also cut down on eating Halloween candy.

This is a great event for kids who want to trick or treat, but either can’t eat candy due to food allergies or who just don’t want to eat too much. Parents can allow kids to pick out a few pieces of candy to keep, and bring the rest to Easthampton CrossFit ((180 Pleasant Street) on Saturday morning from 11am to 1pm to be donated.

Can’t make it? Want to organize a similar event in your community? Find out how you can organize a collection drive in your community through Operation Gratitude.

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event: November 22nd!

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event
Saturday, November 22nd from 10am-1pm
Leeds Elementary School in Northampton, MA

Volunteer with your family to help local non-profits in a single free event on Saturday, November 22nd from 10am-1pm during the Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event, held at Leeds Elementary School in Northampton— a one of a kind event for families to volunteer together while educating children about important social issues and the value of community service. — We are all filled and registration has been closed.

Hilltown Families will be hosting a Saturday morning of family volunteering during our fall Family Community Service Event on Saturday, November 22nd from 10am-1pm in Northampton, MA!

Two years ago was our inaugural Family Community Service Night where we focused on human service organizations, and last year was our Spring Family Community Service Event where we focused on animal welfare and food security. Through both events, families were able to put in 750 hours of community service!  Check out this great video that shares the joy and excitement families experienced together while engaged in volunteerism for their community at two of our family community service events… and then make plans to join us for our newest event this fall!

Our third community service event will be on Saturday, November 22nd and will again be held at Leeds Elementary School in Northampton.  We will be offering five volunteer stations for families to participate in hands-on service projects for ALL AGES that support education, children’s welfare, and human services.  Families will also be able to bring home one of their service projects to continue their community service together from home.

Find out more! Sign up your family!

County Fair Teaches Importance of Community Service

Volunteer at the Franklin County Fair!

Volunteers are needed to assist with the recycling and compost program at the Franklin County Fair in Greenfield. This volunteer opportunity would be good for older students, especially those interested in composting and/or recycling. Volunteering at a large event like the Franklin County Fair can teach students the importance of community service and how valuable volunteers are when it comes to making events like this run with minimal waste.

Volunteers are needed to assist with the recycling and compost program at the Franklin County Fair in Greenfield. The fair runs from Sept 4-7, 2014, and volunteers are needed from Sept 3-10, 2014.  Volunteers will be responsible for collecting recyclables and compostable material from the designated bins, sorting and processing the materials, and monitoring the bins during fair hours.  All volunteers get free admission to the Fair and are able to explore the fairgrounds and enjoy all the fair has to offer before and after shifts and during breaks.  A great community service opportunity for teens and families to do together!

Last year volunteers helped the Fair recycled and composted over 3.3 tons of materials!  This volunteer opportunity would be good for older students, especially those interested in composting and/or recycling.  Volunteering at a large event like the Franklin County Fair can teach students the importance of community service and how valuable volunteers are when it comes to making events like this run with minimal waste.

The sign-up deadline for volunteers is Sept 3rd, 2014, at 5pm.  Sign up &  more information here.  Please email or call Amy Donovan if you have any questions at amy@franklincountywastedistrict.org or 413-772-2438.  The fair takes place at 89 Wisdom Way in Greenfield, MA.  More information on the Franklin County Fair can be found on the fair’s website.

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