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 »

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 »

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 »

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 »

Volunteer Engagement During Thanksgiving Cultivates Community Building Through Service-Based Learning

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 »

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

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!

Family Volunteer Event Helps to Close the Summer Meal Gap!

Summer Family Volunteer Event at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
Tuesday, July 1 from 12noon –  4pm

You can help close this “Summer Meal Gap” for working families in Western Massachusetts by bringing your family to The Food Bank’s Summer Family Volunteer Event on Tuesday, July 1 from 12noon-4pm in Hatfield, MA. Everyone is welcomed.

Without school meals, grocery budgets are stretched to the brink, and many parents find it difficult to replace the two to three free meals they receive five days a week during the school year. Nearly half of the families must make tough choices between paying for food and paying for utilities, fuel, rent, mortgage or medical care, because they don’t have enough money to meet all these basic needs.

How important are school meals to kids in our area?

  • 1 out of 5 children in Western Massachusetts are classified as “Food Insecure.”
  • More than 365,000 children (nearly 2/5 of Massachusetts students) receive free or reduced meals in school.
  • Families that rely on school feeding programs must provide an additional 10 meals per child for each week of summer!

You Can Help

You can help close this “Summer Meal Gap” for working families in Western Massachusetts by bringing your family to The Food Bank’s Summer Family Volunteer Event. Read the rest of this entry »

DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night
at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA
DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition
Friday, January 17th, 2014 from 4-7pm

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service art-making on Friday, Jan. 17th from 4-7pm at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA, for DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition, the second in a series of five free family community service nights!

What better gift to receive in the winter than a warm pair of handmade mittens or cozy handmade scarf; and what better gift to give to someone in your community than something you have lovingly made?

On Friday, January 17th from 4-7pm, Hilltown Families will be hosting a Free Family Community Service Night with The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls.  We are inviting families to join us for an evening of DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition. Come with an outgrown felted wool sweater, and/or fleece outerwear to be repurposed into easy-to-sew mittens and scarves to donate to New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT).  No previous experience is needed and there will be tasks for all ages… Join Us!

Family Volunteers Can Help Children in Transition Celebrate Their Birthdays!

Volunteer Opportunity with Birthday Wishes
Because Every Kid Has a Birthday!

Volunteering together with your children teaches positive values, like kindness, empathy and tolerance, while opening up channels of communication. Thanks to Birthday Wishes, a nonprofit organization serving much of New England and New York, children living in homeless shelters are able to celebrate their birthdays with games, cake, and gifts – and there are lots of ways that families can help to support the organization’s efforts…

The celebration of birthdays is an important childhood activity. Birthday parties honor a child, and acknowledge the growth that has taken place during the past year. Children, to whom the length of a year feels much longer than it does to an adult, look forward to their birthdays with excitement and can hardly wait to have a new number to represent themselves. Even older children who have lost some of the excitement of early childhood look forward to birthdays – a birthday means a special day when you’re the center of everyone’s positive attention.

Imagine, though, that you’re a small child and your birthday passes without celebration or perhaps even without mention. Imagine that after spending the whole year sharing cupcakes at school for friends’ special day or getting invitations to the parties of others, your own much anticipated day brings nothing special. Children whose families are experiencing homelessness often have this experience. Families whose lives lack stability and financial resources are forced to make sacrifices, and non-essentials like birthday parties are no longer a priority when these families reside in a shelter.  Thanks to Birthday Wishes, there are several ways families can help children in transition celebrate their birthdays…

DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night
at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA
DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition
Friday, January 17th, 2014 from 4-7pm

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service art-making on Friday, Jan. 17th from 4-7pm at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA, for DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition, the second in a series of five free family community service nights!

What better gift to receive in the winter than a warm pair of handmade mittens or cozy handmade scarf; and what better gift to give to someone in your community than something you have lovingly made?

On Friday, January 17th from 4-7pm, Hilltown Families will be hosting a Free Family Community Service Night with The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls.  We are inviting families to join us for an evening of DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition. Come with an outgrown felted wool sweater, and/or fleece outerwear to be repurposed into easy-to-sew mittens and scarves to donate to New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT).  No previous experience is needed and there will be tasks for all ages… Join Us!

Spread the Bread: Community Service from Hearth & Home

Connecting and Supporting Community with Bread (and Biscuits!)

“Through tradition, culture, religion, taste or memory, we all share a connection to bread.” – www.spreadthebread.org

Does your family do a lot of baking during the holidays… or on a snow day!

Why not make an extra loaf or two and share with someone in need or a local hero?

Spread the Bread, a global grassroots bread-spreading initiative, is encouraging families to do just that!

Community members are encouraged to bake (or buy) bread, wrap it with a note of hope, inspiration or gratitude, and offer that bread to honor a hero (firemen, veterans, first responders), donate to a food pantry, share with an elder in your community… offering a gift and connecting with your community.

Download these cards to color and attach to your “small loaves of kindness!”

[Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield]

Community Service: Creating Care Bags for Giving

Hands-on volunteering experiences can sometimes be hard to find for families with younger children. There are many terrific of organizations within our community that need volunteers to help with a variety of jobs, but often these jobs are skill-specific or take place in environments that may not be welcoming to young children. However, there are lots of community service projects that kids can do at home that make just as large an impact as in-person volunteering.

Care bags are an example of an at-home community service project that families with young children can do together with parents or teens facilitating. Care bags can be created to donate for people of all ages to a variety of organizations, but creating them for children can help young children feel a particular connection to the process. While your own children may not have experienced anything like what those who will be receiving your bags may have (homelessness, foster care, major illness, etc.), they will already have one thing in common: they’re kids, and they know what is fun and interesting, as well as what would be comforting during a scary time.

There are many different ways to participate in the creation and distribution of care bags, and the process of creating them can be tailored to the age and specific interests of those involved. Families can research organizations that solicit donations of items or create their own bags from scratch.  [Continue reading…]

A Serving of Art: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night
at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA
A Serving of Art: Placemat Making
Friday, December 13th from 4-7pm

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service on Friday, Dec. 13th in Shelburne Falls at The Art Garden, for A Serving of Art: Placemat Making, the first in a series of five family community service nights!

During the holidays, many families find themselves wanting to give back to their community by supporting food security and connecting with their neighbors. This time of year can also see children with a bad case of the “gimmies.” A family night of community service is one way to support your community while helping children focus on the needs of others. Using art and making your own gifts creates a well rounded recipe for the holidays.

Hilltown Families and The Art Garden will be collaborating again this year in a series of Free Family Community Service Nights! The first in the series will be on Friday, December 13th from 4-7pm: A Serving of Art: Placemat Making.

Join us in Shelburne Falls for an evening of art and community service, making reusable handmade canvas placemats and collecting nonperishable foods, both to donate to Stone Soup Cafe in Greenfield, MA. Families will also be invited to make a second canvas placemat to take and give to an elder in their life or a home-bound senior in their community… Find out more about this community service event…

Support Seniors with a Sock Hop!

Community Service Learning: Socks for Seniors

Of all the possible ways to give back to your community during the holiday season (and the entire year, too), collecting socks might seem like the smallest of ways to make a difference. In reality, it’s not such a small gesture! The socks that you collect or donate don’t have to be boring six-packs of plain white gym socks…. they can be whimsical or even hand knitted!

Spread the spirit of giving and build community this holiday season by organizing a collection drive to support Socks for Seniors!

The organization has been collecting socks all over the country for more than ten years, thanks largely to the support that they have received from families, businesses, schools, and other community groups. The socks collected in each drive are then given to elderly community members in order to keep their toes nice and warm throughout the winter and share some of the holiday spirit that inspired the project in the first place… Read the rest of this entry »

A Serving of Art: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night
at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA
A Serving of Art: Placemat Making
Friday, December 13th from 4-7pm

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service on Friday, Dec. 13th in Shelburne Falls at The Art Garden, for A Serving of Art: Placemat Making, the first in a series of five family community service nights!

During the holidays, many families find themselves wanting to give back to their community by supporting food security and connecting with their neighbors. This time of year can also see children with a bad case of the “gimmies.” A family night of community service is one way to support your community while helping children focus on the needs of others. Using art and making your own gifts creates a well rounded recipe for the holidays.

Hilltown Families and The Art Garden will be collaborating again this year in a series of Free Family Community Service Nights! The first in the series will be on Friday, December 13th from 4-7pm: A Serving of Art: Placemat Making.

Join us in Shelburne Falls for an evening of art and community service, making reusable handmade canvas placemats and collecting nonperishable foods, both to donate to Stone Soup Cafe in Greenfield, MA. Families will also be invited to make a second canvas placemat to take and give to an elder in their life or a home-bound senior in their community… Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event Generates 450 Hours of Community Service in a Single Morning… and a whole lotta fun!

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event Gives Back!

This past Saturday, May 4th, was the second Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event, a one of a kind event for families to volunteer together at seven different community service stations in a single morning!

From teens to tots to grandparents, together families were able to generate 450 hours of community service at this intergenerational event for different non-profit and community organizations in our region that work on behalf of animal welfare, conservation and food security.  Held at Leeds Elementary School in Northampton, MA, families traveled from station to station with Passport in hand, participating in facilitated hands-on projects:

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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!

Thank you to all of the families, volunteers and facilitators who joined us! The event was a great success with 150 folks participating in a fun morning of community service.  And thank you to WGGB ABC 40 for coming out and covering the event for the 6 o’clock news!

Together we were able to:

  • Make 46 bluebird house to donate to Franklin Land Trust!
  • Braid 50 fleece chews to donate to Kane’s Krusade to be distributed in their C.A.R.E. (Canine Assistance, Resources and Education) Kits!
  • Fill a couple bags full of handmade catnip toys for cats waiting for adoption at the Dakin Humane Society!
  • Upcycle & take 50 old tshirts into Giving Bags to collect nonperishable food to donate to local food pantries!
  • Make & take egg cartons full of seed bombs for promoting conservation!
  • Plant & take 50 seedlings and seeds while promoting the idea of sowing an extra row of food in family gardens to grow and harvest for local food pantries.
  • Write letters to legislators on issues of animal welfare, conservation and food security.



VOLUNTEERS WANTED

We look forward to hosting another Family Community Service Event, 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 »

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event: May 4th!

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event
Saturday, May 4th 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, May 4th 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 animal welfare, conservation efforts and the value of community service. Space is limited, so reserve a spot for your family today!
“Our mission is to give families service based learning experiences by collaborating with local non-profits and community organizations in a single event,” says Sienna Wildfield, Executive Director of Hilltown Families. “Many families are interested in volunteering together but may find it difficult due to either a limit in time or to a lack of opportunities. Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event is for all ages and is a fun way for families to volunteer together. It’s also an avenue for parents to discuss and educate their children on important community issues and the value of volunteering on behalf of animals and the environment.”

Join Hilltown Families for a Saturday morning of volunteering together with your family during our spring Family Community Service Event on Saturday, May 4th from 10am-1pm in Northampton, MA!

This past fall at our inaugural Family Community Service Night we focused on human service organizations and families had a great time working together in support of several local non-profits.

Our spring event on Saturday, May 4th will be held at Leeds Elementary School in Northampton. We will be offering seven volunteer stations for families to participate in hands-on service projects for ALL AGES that support animal welfare organizations, conservation efforts and food security. Families will also be able to bring home several of their service projects to continue their community service together from home.

With a Community Service Passport in hand, families can travel to each station and have their Passport stamped after completing their service project. In their Passports parents will find conversation starters, online resources and recommended reading lists for each station, and children can share what they liked best about each project by filling in their Passport. Parents can use the Passport to help guide youth participants in learning about animal welfare, conservation efforts and food security.

Our Spring Volunteer Stations include:

  1. BIRD HOUSE BUILDING: Bluebird houses will be constructed on site to be donated to the Franklin Land Trust. Families can help assemble & sand houses… something for all ages. (Facilitated by the Northampton High School Woodworking Club)
  2. FELINE FUN: Make catnip toys for cats to be donated to the Dakin Humane Society for cats waiting for adoption. (Facilitated by Dakin Humane Society)
  3. FLEECE CHEWS FOR CANINES: Make and donate chew toys for dogs of families in need with Kane’s Krusade. (Facilitated by Give a Hoot Pets)
  4. SOW AN EXTRA ROW: Learn about growing extra food in your family garden plot or container gardens to harvest and donate to a local food pantry. Go home with a plant starter and seeds to plant and nurture this summer. (Facilitated by Grow Food Northampton)
  5. SEED BOMBS: Create dirt bombs with native wildflower seeds to use for promoting natural habitats for pollinators. Go home with your very on seed bombs! (Facilitated by Help Yourself!)
  6. GIVING BAGS: Upcycle old t-shirts into giving bags to take home for collecting food for animal shelters, food pantries or other service organization in need of donations. (Facilitated by Knack)
  7. LETTER WRITING: Learn about the work of participating organizations and write letters of appreciation, or participate in letter writing campaigns. (Facilitated by the Northampton High School Key Club)

Donation Stations: In addition to our volunteer stations, we will have several opportunities for families to bring and donate items from home, including:

  • Cat food & cat toys to be donated to Dakin Humane Society.
  • Dog food to be donated to Kane’s Krusade, including: new, unopened dry dog good (no Beneful or Ol’ Roy, please); canned dog food; and dog treats (no treats form China, please).
  • Baby blankets, receiving blankets, baby wipes & kids polar fleece hats to be donated to Urban Wildlife Rehabilitation.

Pet Adoption: Stop by and visit Dakin Humane Society’s pet adoption station. Families can learn more about Dakin’s services and programs, and the adoption process. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your new furry friend! If a family meets an animal they would like to adopt, they can complete their adoption process at either Dakin’s Springfield or Leverett Adoption Centers.

Food: Cup & Top Cafe will be joining us with food to fuel our volunteering families, selling coffee/tea, beverages, pastries and light lunch fare. So be sure to come hungry (and thirsty!).

Questions? Call 413-961-9367

Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event: May 4, 2013

Click here to find out how this wonderful community-service event went: Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event Generates 450 Hours of Community Service in a Single Morning… and a whole lotta fun!


Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event
Saturday, May 4, 2013 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, May 4th 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 animal welfare, conservation efforts and the value of community service. Space is limited, so reserve a spot for your family today!
“Our mission is to give families service based learning experiences by collaborating with local non-profits and community organizations in a single event,” says Sienna Wildfield, Executive Director of Hilltown Families. “Many families are interested in volunteering together but may find it difficult due to either a limit in time or to a lack of opportunities. Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event is for all ages and is a fun way for families to volunteer together. It’s also an avenue for parents to discuss and educate their children on important community issues and the value of volunteering on behalf of animals and the environment.”

Join Hilltown Families for a Saturday morning of volunteering together with your family during our spring Family Community Service Event on Saturday, May 4th from 10am-1pm in Northampton, MA!

This past fall at our inaugural Family Community Service Night we focused on human service organizations and families had a great time working together in support of several local non-profits.

Our spring event on Saturday, May 4th will be held at Leeds Elementary School in Northampton. We will be offering seven volunteer stations for families to participate in hands-on service projects for ALL AGES that support animal welfare organizations, conservation efforts and food security. Families will also be able to bring home several of their service projects to continue their community service together from home.

With a Community Service Passport in hand, families can travel to each station and have their Passport stamped after completing their service project. In their Passports parents will find conversation starters, online resources and recommended reading lists for each station, and children can share what they liked best about each project by filling in their Passport. Parents can use the Passport to help guide youth participants in learning about animal welfare, conservation efforts and food security.

Our Spring Volunteer Stations include:

  1. BIRD HOUSE BUILDING: Bluebird houses will be constructed on site to be donated to the Franklin Land Trust. Families can help assemble & sand houses… something for all ages. (Facilitated by the Northampton High School Woodworking Club)
  2. FELINE FUN: Make catnip toys for cats to be donated to the Dakin Humane Society for cats waiting for adoption. (Facilitated by Dakin Humane Society)
  3. FLEECE CHEWS FOR CANINES: Make and donate chew toys for dogs of families in need with Kane’s Krusade. (Facilitated by Give a Hoot Pets)
  4. SOW AN EXTRA ROW: Learn about growing extra food in your family garden plot or container gardens to harvest and donate to a local food pantry. Go home with a plant starter and seeds to plant and nurture this summer. (Facilitated by Grow Food Northampton)
  5. SEED BOMBS: Create dirt bombs with native wildflower seeds to use for promoting natural habitats for pollinators. Go home with your very on seed bombs! (Facilitated by Help Yourself!)
  6. GIVING BAGS: Upcycle old t-shirts into giving bags to take home for collecting food for animal shelters, food pantries or other service organization in need of donations. (Facilitated by Knack)
  7. LETTER WRITING: Learn about the work of participating organizations and write letters of appreciation, or participate in letter writing campaigns. (Facilitated by the Northampton High School Key Club)

Donation Stations: In addition to our volunteer stations, we will have several opportunities for families to bring and donate items from home, including:

  • Cat food & cat toys to be donated to Dakin Humane Society.
  • Dog food to be donated to Kane’s Krusade, including: new, unopened dry dog good (no Beneful or Ol’ Roy, please); canned dog food; and dog treats (no treats form China, please).
  • Baby blankets, receiving blankets, baby wipes & kids polar fleece hats to be donated to Urban Wildlife Rehabilitation.

Pet Adoption: Stop by and visit Dakin Humane Society’s pet adoption station. Families can learn more about Dakin’s services and programs, and the adoption process. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your new furry friend! If a family meets an animal they would like to adopt, they can complete their adoption process at either Dakin’s Springfield or Leverett Adoption Centers.

Food: Cup & Top Cafe will be joining us with food to fuel our volunteering families, selling coffee/tea, beverages, pastries and light lunch fare. So be sure to come hungry (and thirsty!).

Questions? Call 413-961-9367

Read the rest of this entry »

Spread the Bread: Community Service from Hearth & Home

Connecting and Supporting Community with Bread (and Biscuits!)

“Through tradition, culture, religion, taste or memory, we all share a connection to bread.” – www.spreadthebread.org

Does your family do a lot of baking during the holidays?

Why not make an extra loaf or two and share with someone in need or a local hero?

Spread the Bread, a global grassroots bread-spreading initiative, is encouraging families to do just that!

Community members are encouraged to bake (or buy) bread, wrap it with a note of hope, inspiration or gratitude, and offer that bread to honor a hero (firemen, veterans, first responders), donate to a food pantry, share with an elder in your community… offering a gift and connecting with your community.

Download these cards to color and attach to your “small loaves of kindness!”

Another initiative is Spread the Biscuits, to honor our animal heroes and animals in need. Download a Spread the Biscuits Starter Kit to get started

[Photo credit: (ccl) Renée Suen]

Get Crafty with the Kids & Spread Holiday Cheer in Your Community

Homemade for the Holidays
Spreading Seasonal Cheer in Your Community

Looking for a creative way to participate in community service this holiday season? Does your family make holiday decorations together? Maybe you make garlands of popcorn & cranberries, pomanders (clove studded oranges), salt dough ornaments, mini gingerbread houses out of graham cracker, or decorate your home with paper snowflakes?

Why not make a few extra this holiday season and then take them to your nearest nursing home, children’s hospital or food pantry to add some holiday cheer there too? Get the kids thinking about how to share the joy that happens at home out into their community.

Want to start a new tradition in your home? Here are some links to get you started:

[Photo credit: (ccl) Crazy House Capers]

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night Featured in the Daily Hampshire Gazette

Hilltown Families event at Bridge Street School
links community service and family fun
By Barbara Solow, Daily Hampshire Gazette

NORTHAMPTON (Dec 3, 2012) — City resident Margaret Martin said she brought her two granddaughters, 9 and 6, to a community event at Bridge Street School last Friday to “get them out and about and helping people.”

Victoria Worth of Ashfield was there with her 9-year-old daughter to learn more about the work of local social service agencies.

Phoebe Burch, also 9, of Petersham, said she came with her mom and two younger siblings because “it’s important to make other people happy.”

The Nov. 30 Community Service Night, hosted by Hilltown Families, drew more than 150 families to the city elementary school on Parsons Street. From 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Bridge Street’s cafeteria was transformed into a one-stop volunteer station, where participants worked on simple, hands-on service projects for local nonprofits.

Organizations benefiting from the first-time service night were the Northampton Survival Center, Highland Valley Elder Services, Safe Passage and Baystate Children’s Hospital.

Tabletop projects ranged from tying knots for “no sew” fleece blankets to creating care bags for sick children. After visiting each station, participants got special service “passports” stamped by members of the Northampton High School Key Club, who were volunteer staffers for the event. Read the rest of this entry »

Local Families Give 300 Hours of Community Service!

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Thank you to all of the families who joined us for the Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night this past Friday evening, November 30, 2012! The event was a great success with nearly 150 folks joining us for a fun evening of community service.  By spending a couple of hours helping out in hands-on projects at five different stations, participating families were able to give 300 hours of service to our community!

Together we were able to:

  • Make 10 blankets to donate to Safe Passage!
  • Fill 50 bags with personal care items to donate to Northampton Survival Center!
  • Decorate over 100 place mats to give to homebound elders through the Meals on Wheels program!
  • Create cards & fill 50 bags with fun items for kids at Bay Sate Children’s Hospital!
  • Decorate 50 pots planted with paperwhites to pass along to a community member or community space!

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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!

AT HOME: Equally as important, families learned how they can be of service to their community on their own:

  • Families can fill ziplock bags with personal care items or healthy snacks & water to carry with them to give to a person in need they might meet while traveling around town.
  • A family can make no-sew fleece blankets as a family project to donate to a local shelter.
  • Cards can be made at home to be sent to a child in the hospital, or homebound elders in their community.
  • A random act of kindness, like giving a planted paperwhite to your library, nursing home, school, or elder in your neighborhood, can bring joy and beauty to others, and is a fun creative project families can do together.

MORE IDEAS: Read the rest of this entry »

10 Ways to Give Back & Support Your Community Around Thanksgiving

News & Information on Service Learning, Community Service, & Family Volunteering Opportunities Around Thanksgiving Day

Looking for ways to give back to your community during the holidays. Here are 10 ideas we’ve shared this week on the Hilltown Families Facebook Page.  Ideas range from volunteering with your family for a single evening to hosting an elderly person in your home, and span the four counties of Western MA. There’s also information to share with families in need that you may know.

Do you have a volunteer or community service opportunity for families, children or teens you’d like to share, or have an idea on how families can give back to their community? We want to hear from you!  Email us at hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

FAMILY SERVICE NIGHT

Volunteering as a family is a great way to make memories together & helps teach kids about the importance of giving back. This holiday season join us for Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night on Fri, Nov 30 for a fun evening visiting 5 different volunteer stations, each offering a simple, hands-on service project for all ages. Space is limited & preregistration required for this free event. Sign up soon! Big thank you to our sponsors, Northampton Public Schools/CFCE through a grant from the MA Department of Early Education and Care, Florence Savings Bank & Greenfield Savings Bank for making this night possible! – Want to join us for this special night of community service? Space is limited, so sign up now!

TIN CAN DRIVE

How many tin cans might you have to recycle after preparing your Thanksgiving Dinner? Rather than recycle, why not REUSE? Knack: The Art of Clever Reuse is holding an empty can drive for a volunteer station they are facilitating at the Hilltown Families Family Community Service Night. Please drop off clean tin cans at the Knack Holiday Pop-up shop this Saturday, November 24th from 10am-4pm in the gorgeous space of the Parlor Room, a new music venue at Signature Sounds Recordings, 32 Masonic Street, Northampton, MA.

FOOD DRIVE

On-air Food Drive… Stop by the WHAI or WPVQ studios on Tuesday, November 20 from 6am – 11am to drop off your non-perishable food items for The Food Bank of Western MA. Breakfast items and coffee will be served.

TURKEYS FOR FAMILIES IN NEED

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and the Easthampton Community Center Food Pantry still has turkeys available for families in need! If you need assistance this holiday season or know of a family in need, please send them to the Community Center. Pantry hours for Nov 19-21: Monday from 9am-12noon & 4-7pm; Tuesday from 9am-12noon; Wednesday 9am-5pm.

COMMUNITY DINNER

Do you or someone you know need a hot, home-cooked meal on Thanksgiving Day? Come and enjoy a congregate meal at the William J O’Brien Dinner at the Athol American Legion, corner of Exchange Street and Pequoig Avenue in Athol. Great company, great food, and drop-in’s are welcome. Come early and enjoy a cup of coffee. Transportation is available. For reservations, please call the Athol Council on Aging at 978-249-8986.

MITTEN TREE

The Springfield City Library system will be collecting new mittens, gloves, scarves, and hats in its annual Library Mitten Tree project. Help warm the hearts and hands of area children by making a donation at the Central Library Children’s Room or at any Springfield City Library branch. Donated items are distributed to area groups such as the Red Cross – Pioneer Valley Chapter, the Gray House, and Springfield Partners for Community Action, Inc.. Donations will be accepted from Dec 1 until Jan 6, 2013. Many of this year’s donations will be handmade by the “Knit Lits,” a group of knitters and crocheters who meet every Friday from 10-11:30 a.m. at the East Springfield Branch Library, and also by the “Knit Alongs,” who meet Wednesdays at 1 p.m. at the East Forest Park Branch Library, 122 Island Pond Road. Newcomers are welcome to join either of the groups, with current members willing to teach knitting and crocheting. For more information about the Mitten Tree Project call the Central Library Children’s Room, 413-263-6828, x201, or stop in: 220 State Street, Springfield.

COMMUNITY BUILD

The Monterey, Massachusetts ice skating rink behind the fire station will be assembled next Saturday, Nov 24th, from 10am-12noon. Volunteers of all ages and abilities are needed to help attach the side boards and prepare the rink for the January-March season. Hundreds of children, parents, and hockey players enjoy the rink which is managed entirely by volunteers. Its a community effort that needs greater participation to be successful. Please come help and bring a broom, dolly, or cordless drill if possible. For more information, contact Steve at sgraves8@yahoo.com anytime.

PARENT SUPPORT

Parent-child Home Program brings a Home visitor to your home twice a week to show you fun ways to help your child learn through play… Community Action Family Center Programs currently have openings in Greenfield, Turners Falls and Orange areas. Families in the Franklin County town can call for more information or to enroll 413-475-1550.

SOCKS FOR ELDERS

Do you have extra unused socks laying around the house? This year Florence Savings Bankis once again joining forces with Highland Valley Elder Services and other local banks to support the “Socks for Seniors” program to help low-income seniors in the area with new socks. If you wish to contribute to this program, you can drop off pairs of unused socks as at one of our FSB branches or at one of the other participating bank locations between November 1st – 30th. For more information on this great program, visit www.socksforseniors.com

HOST FAMILIES

Adult Family Care (AFC) from Franklin County Home Care (FCHCC) seeks nurturing community homes for young adults and elderly persons unable to live safely at home alone. Host family receives support, monthly stipend and paid vacation. Contact FCHCC to find out more at info@fchcc.org or 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2259.

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night!

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night
Friday, November 30th from 4:30-7:30pm
Bridge Street School in Northampton, MA

Volunteer with your family to help local non-profits in a single event on Friday, November 30th from 4:30-7:30pm during the Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night— an ideal way for families to have fun together while educating children about social issues and the value of community service. Space is limited so reserve a spot for your family today!
“We were inspired to create this service based learning event as a way of bridging families interested in volunteering together with local human service organizations,” says Sienna Wildfield, Hilltown Families Executive Director.  “Many families are interested in volunteering together but may find it difficult due to either a limit in the amount of time they can commit to volunteering or to a lack of opportunities available to them if their children are younger.  Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night is for all ages and is a fun way for families to volunteer together and an avenue for parents to discuss and educate their children on important social issue and the value of helping others.”

Join Hilltown Families for an evening of volunteering together with your family during our first ever Family Community Service Night!  On Friday, November 30th from 4:30-7:30pm in Northampton, families can come together for a fun evening visiting five different volunteer stations, each offering a simple, hands-on service project for all ages.  Participants can volunteer at all five stations or just a couple, learning about the different human service organizations each station benefits and how they contribute to the greater good of our community.

With a Community Service Passport in hand, families can travel to each station and have their passport stamped after completing a simple community service project.  In their passports parents will find conversation starters, online resources and recommended reading lists for each station, and children can share what they liked best about each project by filling in their passport.  Parents can guide youth participants in learning about the social issues like hunger, elder services, and supporting families in transition, while making a real difference in our community.

Beneficiaries of our Family Community Service Night will include the Northampton Survival Center, Highland Valley Elder Services, Safe Passage and Baystate Children’s Hospital.  Families will also be given the opportunity to choose their own beneficiary for one of the stations too!  Volunteers from the Northampton High School Key Club will help facilitate each station, and collaborators include Knack, Northampton ReUse Committee and the Hatfield Library Youth Action Committee.

The Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night is a free event, but limited in space.  Participating families are required to pre-register for this evening of community service.  Slices of pizza will be available for a small donation for participating families.

SIGN UP! WE’RE FULL!

Wow!!!  What a great response!  Unfortunately, due to limited space, we are no longer accepting new registrations.  However, if you would like to be added to our cancellation list (we’ll contact you if space becomes available), or would like to join us for our next Family Community Service Night, complete this form:

Be sure to click SUBMIT.  Thank you for your interest.  We will contact you if we have an opening for our Nov 30th Family Community Service Night, and will let you know about any future nights.


SPONSORS
Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night is a Hilltown Families event and is co-sponsored by Northampton Public Schools/CFCE through a grant from the MA Department of Early Education and Care, Florence Savings Bank and Greenfield Savings Bank.

PARTICIPATING BUSINESSES

Thank you to all of the business who have donated products to the Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night, including:

Is your business is interested in becoming a sponsor or donating to the event? Contact Jess Kuttner at jkuttner@hilltownfamilies.org or Sienna Wildfield at swildfield@hilltownfamilies.org.

Grow Food for Local Hunger Relief with Just Roots this Summer

Families Can Help Grow Food for Hunger Relief
in Greenfield this Summer

Just Roots’ Food for All Garden awaits volunteer to help plant starts donated by local farmers.

Western Massachusetts is lush with farms, making locally grown and produced foods relatively easy to find.  However, there are many local families who are not able to enjoy locally grown produce, for a variety of reasons.

Just Roots, a Greenfield organization whose mission is to provide the community with the knowledge of farming necessary for food production, is growing a “Food for All Garden.”  The purpose of the one-acre garden is to produce, through community effort, locally grown food to donate to local hunger relief organizations.

However, the veggies can’t be grown without volunteers!  Currently, the garden is waiting to be planted with starts donated by local farmers.  Throughout the summer, volunteers will be needed to help with weeding, harvesting, etc. Participating in community service with your family at the Food for All Garden can help kids and their adults learn about hunger in our community, and how access to food (especially local food) can depend on economic status.  It’s a great summer community service project!  Work sessions will take place weekly on Wednesdays from 4-7pm and Sundays from 9am-12pm through the harvest.  For more information on volunteering, visit justroots.org.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Susy Morris]

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