PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Thanksgiving really isn't that far away.
At the South Congregational Church, volunteers are already gearing up for the Thanksgiving Angels program, which provides turkeys and all of the sides to thousands of local residents in need. On Wednesday, Berkshire Money Management helped kick off the season with a $2,500 donation.
"The week before Thanksgiving people start donating but it takes a long time to organize these events," said Nichole Dupont, community development director for Berkshire Money Management.
Years ago, Berkshire Money Management used to hold its own turkey giveaway and the donation helps carry on that tradition for the company. This year, the investment management firm wanted to get an early start on the giving season.
Dupont was joined by financial planner Zack Marcotte to present the check to the program's coordinators Mary Wheat and Mary Rentz.
"It shows great community support," Rentz said, adding that the Berkshire Bank Foundation is also expected to donate $2,500.
The program is massive. On the Monday before Thanksgiving nearly every year there have been lines of families overflowing the church and into the parking lot. Rentz said the pantry this year is moving a volunteer station that was in the center of the auditorium where the food was given out and moving it upstairs so more people can fit inside. In the last few years, the weather had been very cold and people were waiting in line.
Outside, Rentz said there will be more tents and Berkshire Health Systems and the Salvation Army will be on hand to provide such things as hot cider for those waiting.
"We're going to try to make our guests as comfortable as possible and get them in as quick as possible," she said.
Last year 1,450 households benefited from the free turkeys. This year the group is expecting 1,550. The program has been growing just about every year.
The South Congregational Church asks for people to sign up ahead of time to ensure there is enough for everyone. And with those numbers it becomes costly. Wheat said the turkeys alone will cost between $22,000 and $24,000.
The group said there is always a need for donations to make the program possible and those can be made to the church or online. They will also accept donated turkeys.
The church runs both the program and a regular food pantry. Rentz said the pantry serves some 500 families. Wheat said just in Berkshire County there are 34,000 people identified as being in need and countrywide food pantries served 1.9 million pounds of food to close to 1.7 million people.
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PCTV Documentary Finds Pittsfield Parade Dates Back to 1801
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield Community Television's recently released documentary "Fighting For Independence: The History of the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade" has traced the first Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade back to at least 1801.
An article in the Pittsfield Sun from July 7, 1801, says that "at 12:00 o’ clock at noon a Procession was formed consisting of the Militia of the town."
Previously the Pittsfield Parade Committee acknowledged that the parade dated back to 1824.
"This was a fascinating discovery, as we researched to put this documentary together," said Bob Heck, PCTV’s coordinator of advancement and community production and executive producer of the program. "Not only were we able to trace the parade back further than ever before, but to see how the parade has impacted Pittsfield, and how the community always seems to come together to make sure the parade happens is remarkable."
The Pittsfield Fourth of July parade experienced bumps in the road even back in the early 1800s - most notably, when Captain Joseph Merrick, a Federalist, excluded Democrats from the yearly post-parade gathering at his tavern in 1808.
The parade ran concurrently from at least 1801 until 1820. In 1821, Pittsfield’s spiritual leader Dr. Rev. Heman Humphrey, canceled the festivities so the day could be dedicated to God before resuming in 1822 after residents decided they wanted their parade.
"Fighting for Independence: The History of the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade" premiered July 4 at 9:30 am on PCTV Access Pittsfield Channel 1301 and PCTV Select. The program is available on-demand on PCTV Select, available on Roku and Apple TV, or online.
The board voted 3-2 on Monday to allow the bar on Lake Pontoosuc to open up seating and serve beer and wine on its patio under the governor's orders for Phase 2 that allows for outside dining.
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