Earth Day River Festival Builds in the Berkshires

Earth Day River Festival Builds Community for Preservation

Our local rivers keep the landscape alive – celebrate their importance at the first ever Earth Day River Festival honoring the Berkshires’ Housatonic River! Hosted by the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT), the event includes opportunities for community members to learn about and connect with the Housatonic River, and to consider the role that the river plays in their daily lives. Held on Saturday, April 23rd from 11am-1:30pm at Pittsfield’s Fred Garner Park, the Earth Day River Festival brings together environmentally-focused community organizations and offers a rich variety of ways to gain knowledge and skills for conservation and self-sufficiency. Read the rest of this entry »

Poetry & Place in the Hilltowns

Poetry & Place: Exploring the Hilltown Home of 19th Century Poet William Cullen Bryant

By Andrea Caluori-Rivera
MassLIFT AmeriCorps Member at Hilltown Land Trust & Kestrel Land Trust

Kindred Spirits was commissioned by the merchant-collector Jonathan Sturges as a gift for William Cullen Bryant in gratitude for the nature poet’s moving eulogy to Thomas Cole, who had died suddenly in early 1848. It shows Cole, who had been Jonathan Sturges mentor, standing in a gorge in Catskills in company of a mutual friend William Cullen Bryant. Painting is by artist Asher Brown Durand (1796–1886).

Western Massachusetts has been home to many poets and writers who were inspired by this region’s remarkable landscapes and natural settings. Since April is National Poetry Month, the spring season is a great time to explore some of the homes and writing places of local poets from the past, such as the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington, MA.

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) was an editor, abolitionist, conservationist and poet. He grew up in Cummington, MA and later purchased his childhood home and converted it to a country house. Known for his poems inspired by nature, Bryant was also well acquainted with prominent Hudson River School painters Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand. The three of them used their artistic talents in painting and writing to champion the American landscape and helped to inspire the American conservation movement. You can read more about Bryant and his life here: www.poetryfoundation.org.

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead, now a property of The Trustees of Reservations, houses a wonderful collection of items from Bryant’s lifetime as well as interesting objects from later decades left by Bryant’s descendants and those that lived there. The property also boasts an old growth forest and a trail system that follows a rivulet – a water feature Bryant wrote about in 1823 in his poem The Rivulet. Read this poem and his most famous, Thanatopsis.

This spring and summer, The Trustees of Reservations have a variety of activities planned for folks at the homestead where visitors can volunteer, experience history and learn more about this interesting place and its antique objects. These events offer a variety of opportunities to engage your local community through different interests such as community service, local history, poetry, food traditions, and ecology, and hiking.  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 »

BioBlitz in the Pioneer Valley: Experiential Learning for Novice Naturalists

BioBlitz 2016 Spotlights Citizen Science and Biodiversity in Hampden County

Organized by Elms College, BioBlitz 2016 offers an important opportunity to engage in citizen science in Chicopee! Designed to identify and record as many species of living things as possible, the BioBlitz provides experiential learning opportunities for novice naturalists!

The local landscape is filled with so much life, to locate and identify it all would take the work of many – luckily, that’s exactly what a bioblitz is for! On Saturday, April 30th, Elms College hosts BioBlitz 2016 at Memorial State Park in Chicopee from 9am-3pm. Pairing the knowledge and expertise of scientists, naturalists, and college students with that of children, families, and community members, the event is equal parts citizen science, community service, and community collaboration, and offers unique experiential learning opportunities as a result.

Used in locations far and wide but originating here in Massachusetts, the BioBlitz is a community event used to identify and record any and all species of life found in a specific geographic area. The purpose of such events is to gather information about the populations that locations can support, and to assess the health of an outdoor space. An additional use for BioBlitzes is to educate, allowing citizen scientists to learn about the complex ecosystem in which they live. Read the rest of this entry »

Canines Breed Community-Based Service Learning and Citizen Science Opportunities

Canines Breed Community-Based Service Learning and Citizen Science Opportunities

Affectionately dubbed man’s best friend, dogs have a special place in human society. Through museum exhibits, opportunities for service-based learning, and psychology-centric citizen science, families can engage in meaningful studies of all things dog!

Lovingly known as man’s best friend, dogs have lots to offer to humans. Not only are they great companions, but they’re fascinating subjects of study, and can teach us a lot about ourselves – despite differences in genetics. By utilizing a range of resources, families can use dogs as a lens through which to explore service learning, citizen science, and the evolution of human society.

Currently, the Springfield Museums are hosting a special dog-centric exhibit. Titled, “Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs, the exhibit chronicles canine history all the way from its lupine forefathers to its close connections with modern humans.  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 »

Boxing Day: Extending Festive Generosity

Boxing Day: A Day of Gratitude

Drawing inspiration from the holiday’s roots, use the day after Christmas to show some appreciation for those in service positions who you see regularly. Kids can make thank you cards for the workers who stock shelves and bag your groceries at the local co-op, bake and deliver cookies to the farmers at a local CSA, or make prayer flags covered with messages of thanks and gratitude for the doctors and nurses working at a local community health center.

Boxing Day, St. Stephen’s Day, Day of the Wren, Second Christmas Day, Day of Goodwill – known by many names in countries around the world, December 26th brings a second day of celebration. Following the traditional Christmas Day, the holiday most commonly known as Boxing Day is a bank holiday – a day when banks and other similar service-based industries are closed, allowing workers an extra day off. Though the holiday has evolved over time, its roots are quite similar to its modern manifestation. Boxing Day gets its name from the practice of giving Christmas boxes filled with food and gifts to servants and tradesmen – something that took place after the members of the upper class had enjoyed a day filled with celebrations (during which many of the service workers hadn’t had a day off)…

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 »

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 »

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 »

Westfield State Students Dominate Shoe Drive

Westfield State students collect shoes to help in fight against global poverty

Attention anyone with a closet:  Those shoes you no longer want are desperately needed to fight the human tragedy of global poverty.  That’s the message  delivered by Westfield State student and Circle K member Rebecca Talamini ’15, who organized a Soles4Souls shoe drive and collected over 880 pairs of shoes to help the poor, and 35 single shoes to donate to amputees!

Circle K Club, a Kiwanis-affiliated organization of university students, placed donation boxes around campus, at Paper Mill Elementary School (with help from the K-Kids Club), and at South Middle School. South Middle School’s drive, led by Dianna Stutzhuk, Shaunessey Lambert, and Elise Urbanski, collected 200 pairs for Soles4Souls.  Read the rest of this entry »

Support Language Art & Community Engagement Through Poetry

Poem in Your Pocket Day
Supporting Language Art & Community Engagement

Thursday, April 30th, 2015, is national Poem in Your Pocket Day, a day when people select poems to share with others they encounter throughout their day. We love what the community in Charlottesville, VA, organized for this national day that celebrates poetry while supporting literacy. This great community building event was a collaboration between their library, schools and senior center.  It encouraged community engagement in various locations throughout their town, including their library, town common, hospital, and local businesses.  It also encourages literacy development and a love of language.

Wouldn’t it be great if communities, groups or individuals in Western MA did something similar? Tell us if you do! It could be as simple as a youth group doing something similar to this VA community on a much smaller scale, passing out poetry to passersby in Northampton, Greenfield, Pittsfield, Amherst or Springfield. Or you could become guerrilla poets, posting poems on community bulletin boards in your town. Share your ideas and be inspired!

Check out our archived column, “One Clover & A Bee: Poems for Families to Learn & Love” for more encouragement that supports a love for poetry in our children and ourselves.

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 »

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 »

Be Random & Create a Culture of Kindness

It Is the Season of Good Cheer After all!

Found

A simple random thought can have a significant ripple impact. Support Hilltown Families with your tax deductible donation so we can continue to generate hundreds of hours of service & kindness to our community!

While Random Acts of Kindness Week doesn’t take place until February, the present holiday season is as good a time as any to practice some community-building, love-sharing, message-spreading acts of kindness! Whether your acts are big or small, random or carefully planned, sharing an act of kindness with someone (or many someones) in your community is very meaningful, and will not only brighten a neighbor’s day or boost a community hero’s confidence, but will also help to teach children how to share joy and appreciation with the world. 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.

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Engage in Community-Based Learning & Service: Become a Pet Foster Family

Pet Fostering Helps Animal Welfare Organizations While Allowing Families an Opportunity for a Short Term Commitment to Care for Animals

There are many local community organizations through which families can foster pets. While some organizations care only for dogs, others include cat care, and still others offer foster opportunities for small caged mammals and even birds! Whatever shape the pet-sized hole in your family’s heart takes, there’s likely an animal in a shelter waiting to fill it. Learn more about the humane societies and animal rescues below, fill out an application, and enjoy your fostering experience!

Have your children been begging for pets as presents? As the holiday season approaches, requests for living gifts can come in a deluge, and for kiddos who have yet to truly conceptualize the long-term commitment that pet parenting entails may not understand the true weight of the “forever” attached to the acquisition of a family pet. However, families can enjoy the adventure of having pets at home by participating in a local animal shelter’s foster family program!

In addition to allowing children experience pets without a permanent, years-long commitment, pet fostering is a meaningful and exciting way to participate in community service. All across western Massachusetts, animal rescue organizations and humane societies work hard to provide food, warm homes, and companionship to animals who might otherwise go without these three basic needs. As any animal-loving child knows, a domestic animal without a home, proper food, or love from a human companion is neither a happy creature or a healthy creature. However, with the help of foster families, animal shelters are able to offer pets the comfort and care of a family and a true home environment while they wait for placement with a permanent family. Read the rest of this entry »

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

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