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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Berkshires Beat: BNRC Upgrades Popular Trails for 2019 Summer Season
On Monday, June 10, state Rep. Smitty Pignatelli joined members of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) board of directors, volunteers, staff and nature trail enthusiasts to unveil a redesigned trailhead kiosk and enhanced on-trail signage at BNRC's flagship conservation reserve, Yokun Ridge South at Olivia's Overlook. Similar upgrades have also been completed at 16 other BNRC trail sites across Berkshire County. All 54 BNRC reserves are open to the public year-round from dawn to dusk, free of charge.
Each updated kiosk features a large map of the reserve and its trail system; notes on the natural, cultural, and ownership history of the protected lands; and suggested activities for each property. Also available at the kiosks are free, newly revised paper trail maps for visitor use. Easier-to-read on-trail signage, mostly in the form of large brown signs with white letters, has also been installed on many trails. Among these are trails at The Boulders, a BNRC property used by many, which spans across parts of Dalton, Lanesborough and the City of Pittsfield in the center of Berkshire County.
"These kiosk and signage improvements, coupled with BNRC's new Berkshire Trails app, will help everyone explore the richness of the Berkshires' hiking trails and outdoor opportunities," said BNRC President Jenny Hansell. At Monday's unveiling ceremony, Pignatelli spoke to the crowd of the economic importance of conservation land and outdoor recreation opportunities in the Berkshires.
Established in 1967, the Berkshire Natural Resources Council’s mission is to protect and preserve the natural beauty and ecological integrity of the Berkshires for public benefit and enjoyment. There are 54 BNRC conservation reserves spread across Berkshire County, free to the public, open to everyone for non-motorized recreation, featuring over 55 miles of maintained trails.
Cheshire food pantry
The Cheshire Pantry opened on Saturday, May 26, from 11 a.m. to noon at the Cheshire Community Center. The pantry will be available the first Saturday of each month. Emergency food is available as well as delivery service.
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