The Rev. Joel Huntington talks about the impact the pantry has on local families.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Republic Services doesn't just clean up the city's trash. It helps to clean up the community.
The city's trash hauler makes annual donations to various organizations throughout the city. This year four organizations were chosen by Mayor Linda Tyer for donations eyed to help make the city a better place.
The South Congregational Food Pantry was again a recipient. Republic Services has donated to the food pantry on multiple occasions and employees hold food drives to get additional donations. The food pantry is getting $500 to continue its efforts.
The Rev. Joel Huntington joked about the amount of trash generated through feeding thousands of families and thanked Republic Services workers for their efforts. But there is something more. Huntington said the constant support from the hauler shows they are trying to clean up societal problems as well.
"We are sort of helping to clean up the mess of our community in our society that doesn't deal with income inequality very well at all. People struggle and it makes a huge societal mess," he said.
The pantry serves an estimated 500 families and goes through as much as 10,000 pounds of food per week. But perhaps what it is most known for is its Thanksgiving Angels program in which the pantry gives out full Thanksgiving dinners every year to close to 1,500 families.
The second recipient this year was ServiceNet's Living in Recovery program.
"I am pleased to nominate Living in Recovery because I am so impressed with what Jay and his team have done at the Crane Center. I know this is a vital service to people in our city that struggle with addiction. And part of our work is making sure we are supporting people who struggle," Tyer said.
Jay Sacchetti, vice president of addiction and sheltering services at ServiceNet, said the program is the only one like it this side of I-91. The program helps those recovering from addiction learn how to get back into society.
"It is not treatment. It is not clinical. But it is how do you have fun in recovery, how do you live your life?" Sacchetti said.
It began in the fall through funding from Donna and Dave Darcy and now has 150 members. Sacchetti said in May the Department of Public Health awarded a $375,000 grant to support the program for another three years.
"This is an important gap in the city. It is the only support center that is west of 91. Pittsfield has always been underfunded in terms of its dollars for addiction," Sacchetti said.
Roots Rising is the third organization to receive funding this year to the tune of $1,500. The program employees teenagers in the city to work on local farms and learn the food business.
"We actually pay Pittsfield teens to work on farms, in food pantries, they take culinary classes, they take financial literacy workshops. It is a youth development and employment program," said co-Director Jess Vecchia.
Jay Sacchetti from the Living in Recovery program accepted the donation that serves more than 100 people.
Co-Director Jamie Samowitz said there are some 75 applicants for the program every year but it can only support so many. The organization employs 36 teens per year and Vecchia said Roots Rising is launching two new programs -- a market grow a program that will put teens in charge of the Downtown Farmer's Market and a summer eats program providing free meals to youth under the age of 18.
"They are always, like many organizations, struggling to find funds to support their efforts so I'm pleased to be able to do this with the next group of kids," Tyer said.
The largest donation, at $2,500, this year is to support the Fourth of July parade. The parade had been a past recipient of a Republic Services donation but funds are a bit more dire now.
"Last March, I took a gamble and said without the community's support, 2019 would be the last Fourth of July parade in the city of Pittsfield. Believe it or not, I am so overwhelmed with the amount of support that has come forward," Parade Committee President Peter Marchetti said.
"I will not until July 5 say there will be a parade in 2020 but I will tell you I'm not going to stop fighting until I make it to that point in time."
Marchetti said the donation will go toward stabilizing the committee' financial situation to ensure the annual celebration continues in the future.
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