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The public schools and other departments collected 1,150 pounds of food and personal-care items. Superintendent of Schools Barbara Malkas brings in bags of food to the Friendship Center Food Pantry on Monday.
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Superintendent Barbara Malkas and Mayor Thomas Bernard wait for the delivery with pantry food coordinator Richard Davis.
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North Adams Food Drive Collects Half-Ton for Friendship Center Food Pantry

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Volunteers Robert Dubreuil, left, Franklin Risatti and coordinator Richard Davis stack boxes of food at the food pantry on Monday. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The annual citywide food drive has collected a half-ton of packaged and canned foods and personal care items for the Al Nelson Friendship Center Food Pantry.
 
City workers aided by pantry volunteers and Mayor Thomas Bernard and Superintendent of School Barbara Malkas unloaded 1,150 pounds of goods on Monday morning. 
 
All four schools, the Armory, greenhouse program, City Hall, the library, Spitzer Center and Police and Fire departments participated in the two-week "Restock the Shelves" drive.
 
The donations are always welcome but the need seems to have eased from last year, when the pantry was serving upwards of 140 people a week. 
 
"As of January of 2021, our numbers just dropped in half and stayed pretty consistent since then," food coordinator Richard Davis said. "We don't exactly know why. There's probably a lot of different things that enter into it."
 
There may be more food resources available, he said, and more governmental assistance in terms of food stamps and payments during the pandemic. 
 
"It's a substantial amount of money, right?" Davis said. "So we just think that there's more sources of funding or food available to people. We like to think maybe more people have found jobs and are able to better support themselves."
 
Some 60 to 70 people take advantage of the Eagle Street pantry weekly. It's open from 10 to 2 every Wednesday and makes deliveries on Thursday. About 70 to 75 percent of the fresh and nonperishable items come through Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the balance of donations from local supermarkets, businesses and individuals. 
 
Nearly two dozen volunteers work at the pantry, many of them have for years. "They know what our routine is and they're very devoted to the food pantry," Davis said.
 
On Monday, volunteers Franklin Risatti and Robert Dubreuil were on hand to help bring in and stack the delivery.
 
The city donations, launched when the pantry first opened in 2011, bring in some different items and offer those who use the pantry some variety, he said. "The can do a little extra shopping here."
 
Bernard said there's a need throughout the year but it can be more difficult for food-insecure people during the holidays, and its been tougher for some over the past nearly two years of the pandemic. 
 
"I'm grateful to everyone in the city and the school district and the members of the community who support this every year," he said. "We just know that throughout the year, but certainly at the holidays, not to be Dickensian about it, these are the times where that little extra bit of generosity really makes a difference."

Tags: food drive,   food pantry,   Friendship Center,   

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North Adams Awarded $200K for Mohawk Marquee Restoration

Staff Reports
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is receiving $200,000 in state funding toward the refurbishment of the landmark Mohawk Theater marquee. 
 
North Adams was awarded $200,000 from the Regional Economic Development Organization program, which is administered through the Massachusetts Office of Business Development. Some $2.1 million in the competitive grants were announced on Wednesday for 38 projects across the state, including more than $600,000 in the Berkshires. 
 
The status of the 1938 theater has been the center of numerous discussion on downtown development and not a few biennial mayor contests. The marquee was last restored two decades ago and, while it's had some maintenance since, its neon lighting is worse for wear. 
 
A proposal to sell the theater two years ago prompted the City Council to insist on conditions that the marquee would be not be removed by the buyer. Requests for proposals on the building have contained language requiring the marquee be restored as part of any deal. 
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