New Year’s Resolution: Volunteering with Your Family

New Year’s Resolution: Volunteering

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

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

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

Winter months put further strain on struggling households

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

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

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

Let Them Grow: Giving Back This Holiday Season

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Making Giving about Giving

Recycle brown paper bags into “donation bags” this holiday season and join a local family friendly effort to bring kindness and giving to the holiday season!

This is the time of year to think about not just our families but also for our community. Living in such a small valley makes it easy to make connections that are meaningful and valuable. One easy activity that will help your children understand the value of giving and gratitude are donation bags!

At my daycare we have teamed up with Lindsay Fogg-Willits, owner of Art Always in Florence, and came up with this awesome easy activity. Giving helps us all feel fulfilled in so many ways; it helps establish the means for empathy are caring, besides it just feels good.  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 »

Pay It Forward Inspires Community Volunteering

Recognizing and Supporting Seniors during Older Americans Month

‘Get into the Act’

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

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

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

National Volunteer Month & Beyond Boosts Service-Based Learning

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

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

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

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

Build Community & Inspire Change During National Volunteer Month

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

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

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

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

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

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 »

Making A List of Kindness for 2015

Being a Catalyst of New Year Kindness in Your Community

For the new year, make a family commitment to spreading kindness throughout your community! Rather than creating resolutions for self-transformation based on perceived flaws, celebrate your skills and share your love for those around you by engaging in acts of kindness all year long. It’s a powerful project!

At the start of 2014, we encouraged families to focus on resolving not to change or add to their lives, but to simply enjoy the good things in life. Rather than using the start of a new year as a time to focus on ways to fix perceived flaws in ourselves, it’s much more enjoyable to use the first of the year as a time to spark positivity and, after focusing on enjoying the good stuff in 2014, families can use the start of 2015 to spark a year of sharing kindness.

In addition to being a time for celebration, the holiday season brings with it a culture of kindness and generosity and, as the holidays come to a close, this culture is often stowed away or scaled back until the next year’s holidays come around. However, instead of letting kindness, generosity, and compassion be character traits that we reserve for only the most celebratory time of year, families can resolve to share kindness throughout the year – helping to remind themselves and others that being kind is necessary no matter the season.  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.

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!

Global Youth Service Day

Global Youth Service Day
Community Service-Based Learning

Families interested in participating in community service can use Global Youth Service Day as an opportunity to choose a cause and begin donating their time and efforts to it.

Every single day, kids are making a difference in their communities. Whether it’s through collecting donations for a food bank, volunteering to walk dogs at a local animal shelter, delivering meals to senior citizens, or helping to raise awareness and support for an important cause, kids can (and do) accomplish some really wonderful things through community service. Not only do such efforts benefit communities, they also help kids to learn important lessons about fairness and equality, community activism, and leadership.

This year, GenerationOn honors the efforts of youth around the world with Global Youth Service Day – an event designed to celebrate kid-lead projects and to encourage youth to become engaged in service within their communities. Taking place from April 11th-13th, 2014, Global Youth Service Day honors youth on six continents and in over 135 countries for their service. In addition to celebrating efforts that are already being made, Global Youth Service Day is designed to promote community service and to draw in youth as volunteers to support a wide variety of causes.
Read the rest of this entry »

Children’s Volunteer Morning at The Food Bank

Children’s Volunteer Morning at The Food Bank
Monday, December 23rd, 2013

This community service-based learning opportunity will take place during school vacation week on Monday, December 23rd, 2013, and offers kids and their families a chance to volunteer together while learning about food security and the important work the Food Bank does to support food security in the region.

1 in 5 children in Western Massachusetts live in food insecure households. The holidays are a particularly difficult time for families in need, who must juggle higher heating costs, children needing more meals at home (instead of at school), and recent cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), all while trying to put food on the table and make the holidays a special time for the whole family.

You and your family can help the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts provide food for your neighbors in need during a special Children’s Volunteer Morning in Hatfield.   Find out more…

Dog House Build Off! Community Service for Animal Welfare.

Volunteers Sought for Doghouse-Building Event to Aid Dogs in Need

Kane’s Krusade, a nonprofit organization that helps dogs in need in the greater Springfield area, is seeking volunteers to assist with a doghouse-building event on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 from 8am-4pm. The purpose of the event is to successfully build seven doghouses that are fully insulated, raised off the ground and weather proof. The doghouses built by volunteers will be donated to provide insulated shelter for dogs whose owners cannot afford one.

Dogs make fantastic family pets – when trained and lovingly cared for, they are wonderful companions. Pups of all shapes and sizes provide friendship, snuggles, and energetic playtime for families. Pets are, however, affected by the changes that take place within a household and, sometimes, when families experience difficult times, pets’ lives change, too. Luckily, Kane’s Krusade has come to the rescue! Kane’s Krusade offers support and resources for canine-owning community members who love their pets but experience difficulty in properly caring for them. People served by Kane’s Krusade are disabled, elderly, unemployed, and/or living on a fixed income and, without the organization’s help, might be forced to give up their beloved furry friends.

This fall, Kane’s Krusade is offering a unique opportunity for families to help out in supporting dogs in need! In order to ensure that outdoor dogs are safe and healthy during the harsh winters that we experience in New England, the organization is hosting a Dog House Build Off…

Read the rest of this entry »

Kids Day of Community Service Benefits Many!

Hilltown Families &  Whole Foods Market
Kids Day of Community Service Benefits Many!

This past Saturday at Atlas Farm in Deerfield, Hilltown Families collaborated with Whole Foods Market and brought families together in the fields for a day of community service, gleaning 669 POUNDS of organic kale, collards, chard and broccoli leftover from a recent harvest to donate to the Food Bank of Western MA!

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This community service-based learning experience is one in a string of events Hilltown Families has organized over the past year in a effort to support food security in the region, offering families opportunities to participate in community service together. Last September (2012), Hilltown Families organized a field trip to the Food Bank of Western MA where families were able to see how the Food Bank operates while learning about food security efforts in the region and participating in hands-on community service projects. This past May (2013) at the Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event we partnered with Grow Food Northampton and empowered families to grow an extra row of vegetables in their home gardens to harvest and donate to their local food pantries.

When Whole Foods Market in Hadley approached Hilltown Families this summer with the idea of collaborating in a community service event during Hunger Action Month, we wanted to tie it in to this theme of supporting food security in the region.  We suggested collaborating with a local farm and organizing a trip to glean left over vegetables from their fields to donate to The Food Bank. Atlas Farm, a local vendor at Whole Foods Market, welcomed the idea and together we were able to bring in families and glean 669 pounds of organic vegetable! Whole Kids Foundation provided a build-your-own salad-bar lunch following work in the field, giving families a chance to enjoy healthy eating together.

“Hilltown Families and Whole Foods Market Kids Day of Community Service was a wonderful service learning experience for my son,” writes Ronna Kullberg of Northampton, MA. “Not only did he get a deeper understanding of community involvement, but a closer look at where his food comes from. Terrific experience all around!”

Collaborating in the creation of community service experiences gives Western MA families opportunities to be engaged in their community.  This directly supports Hilltown Families mission to nurture and create resilient and sustainable communities by developing and strengthening a sense of place in our children and citizens.  Whole Foods Market in Hadley has consistently been a supporter of the community building work of Hilltown Families and we thank them for their ongoing support and service to our community!

In this video, volunteer Andy Wallace covered a couple of Hilltown Families community service events, including our collaboration with the Art Garden for Flowers for Friends,  and our Family Community Service Event this past May. Check it out and get a glimpse into the mission of Hilltown Families and how community service-based learning is an important piece of community engagement and in developing a sense of place in our children:

Thank you Andy Wallace for the video and Steve Roslonek of SteveSongs for the soundtrack!

Hilltown Families & Whole Foods Market Kids’ Day of Community Service: Join us!

Kids’ Day of Community Service with
Hilltown Families & Whole Foods Market
at Atlas Farm in Deerfield, MA
Saturday, Sept. 7th from 11am-2pm

PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED: Registration Ends September 5th, 2013

Kids’ Day of Community Service is a free, family-friendly 2-hour project with tasks for everyone ages 2 and up.  Join us in a service learning opportunity, giving kids a hands-on look at how their food is grown while supporting the food security efforts of the Food Bank of Western MA. Space is limited and all participating families are asked to pre-register online.

Last September, Hilltown Families organized a field trip to the Food Bank of Western MA where families were able to see how the Food Bank operates while learning about food security efforts in the region.  Families were also able to participate in community service projects during their visit by lending a hand with sorting food donations and with preparations for the Food Bank’s annual “Will Bike 4 Food” Fundraiser.

One of the issues participants learned during this field trip was how difficult it can be for some families to have access to fresh organic fruits and vegetables.  This past May at our Family Community Service Event we partnered with Grow Food Northampton and empowered families to grow an extra row of vegetables in their home gardens to harvest and donate to their local food pantries.

Coming up this September, in collaboration with Whole Foods Market in Hadley and Atlas Farm in Deerfield, families are invited to come together again on Saturday, September 7th, 2013 from 11am-2pm in Deerfield for a day of community service, gleaning organic vegetables leftover from a recent harvest to donate to the Food Bank. We will also be rolling up our sleeves to help prepare the Farm for winter.  Jerod Shuford, the Education Coordinator at the Food Bank, will be attending our Kids’ Day of Community Service, speaking to families about food security in the region and how they can continue to support the work of the Food Bank…

Read the rest of this entry »

Get involved! Service-Learning Opportunities in Western MA

Get involved! Service -Learning Opportunities in Western MA

How better to participate and learn through your community than a service-learning project? Service-learning projects can help youth connect with others while learning about their world.

Since just about anything can be a learning experience, this list will include both opportunities where the learning is obvious, along with opportunities where the learning is more subtle.

While there are lots of “Projects,” and opportunities for children to volunteer, why not just ask an organization that you respect if they need some help? Most groups need regular help with administrative tasks, including Hilltown Families. Asking is an easy way to get your family involved in something that you care about. Just about every social service agency, not for profit, and community can benefit from the support of others.

Here are some specific projects to check out:

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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

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