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Wayne Gelinas and Lea King have been forced to shutter their Mohawk Trail eatery and go online. But they also have been providing meals to those also affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wigwam Supports Community With Free Meal Program

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Despite their own challenges during the pandemic, the Wigwam's owners have managed to give back to the community with free Sunday meals 
Wayne Gelinas and Lea King have been forced to shutter their Mohawk Trail eatery, at least for the time being. But they have found a way to continue business online while providing free meals to those in need.
"It's important to local businesses to support the community because the community has been there for us in the first place," King said in an email exchange. "The survival of the Wigwam depends on the community and for us, this is our home. This is where Wayne was born and where we decided to retire. If we can help to alleviate some neighbor's concerns and help to solve the hunger issue during the pandemic we know it brings out the best in people."
King said when COVID-19 hit her daughter Emily and her boyfriend Michael, who are recent graduates of Stanford University, decided to shelter in place at the Wigwam. While bunkering down. they came up with the meal program.
"Together they had the brains, the motivation, and the experience," King said. "They decided if they had food on the table, none of the neighbors in North Adams and Florida Mountains would go hungry."
So in April, they began cooking extra food in hopes of helping the community's most vulnerable and those who may be experiencing difficulties finding meals during the pandemic. 
The Wigwam Community Meals program is completely voluntary and every Friday, King posts on Instagram and Facebook a reminder that those interested can reserve a meal. 
"Anyone who has financial difficulty and is hungry is offered a freshly prepared meal, no
questions asked," she said. 
So far the menu has included pasta with meat sauce, chili con carne, Italian sausage stew and garbanzo beans with fresh focaccia bread.
King said they recently partnered with the Al Nelson Friendship Center Food Pantry to distribute donated bread, pastry, and fresh produce. King said they have four volunteer drivers who deliver both the meals and groceries to those at the most risk who are unable to pick up the meals themselves.
As of this weekend, they have served more than 250 meals and have helped 30 families a week.
King said folks can donate here to help support the meals program.
King said this hasn't been without challenges and with the demand for meals and groceries increasing, the Wigwam must also juggle its own financial and operational issues.  
"We would like to cook for those in need until we can open the store," she said. "We need to make income ourselves as the funds come from our equity line of credit. The Wigwam is our only source of income and it's a seasonable store."
They purchased the historic property two years ago, settling into the house while refurbishing the historic cabins and landmark gift shop. They added coffees, a cafe and bakery. The rental cabins had been booked this year for local college commencements, weddings and summer events but the novel coronavirus pandemic has meant cancellations and refunded reservations.
King said because they have been unable to open, they changed the way they do business and opened up an online store for their inventory and souvenirs.
"We believe it's survival," she said. "Sadly many small businesses will not survive if they don't pivot their business model. We are not sure if we would make it but we would try everything in our power to hang on to the Wigwam and make it work."
King encouraged people to visit the online store and do whatever they can to support local businesses during these challenging times.
"Local businesses have been part of the fabric in small towns in Western Massachusetts and they will not survive something like COVID-19," King said. "The Wigwam has been a local treasure since 1914 and its survival during the pandemic is up to the community. We brought the Wigwam back to life in 2018 after it sat vacant in a decade. It's already on life support while giving back to the community we love.
"Please help us make it so generations in the future can continue to create memories on the summit and enjoy the view with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine."

Tags: COVID-19,   wigwam,   

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Northern Berkshire United Way Sets $480K Campaign Goal

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Christine and Peter Hoyt are this year's campaign co-chairs. Their goal is to raise $480,000 over the next year. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire United Way supports 20 member agencies in the work they do addressing social, health, youth and family services throughout the region. 
Two of those agencies — Louison House and Community Legal Aid — highlighted some of the efforts within the community at United Way's annual campaign kick on Wednesday morning at Norad Mill. 
The agency also announced its new slate of officers and board members, including President Kelly McCarthy and Vice President Tyler Bissaillon, and took a moment to remember the contributions of the late Stephen Green, a longtime community activist and former campaign co-chair with his wife, Susanne Walker.
"While our hearts in our community at large are at a loss for a man who truly embody all of the characteristics and traits that we acknowledge as Northern Berkshire, such as honesty, integrity, commitment, selfless service, dedication, we can be comforted in knowing that his legacy lives on," said Jennifer Meehan, vice chair of Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, of which Green was a board member and former president. 
Kathy Keeser, executive director of Louison House, described the history of the shelter that opened more than three decades ago after the closure of Sprague Electric and other local mills devastated the economy. Founded by Theresa Louison, the agency has expanded to provide emergency shelter, family housing, transitional housing, preventive services and, soon, a youth shelter facility. 
Housing is a growing need while at the same time, housing costs are rising, she said, and this effects particularly the people Louison House serves, people who don't have savings or credit — "who are at the last chance of an apartment."
"People are really struggling, but it's our community connections and it's our work with other agencies," Keeser said. "We do a piece of the puzzle. Ours is about getting them out to housing — working with mental health, substance abuse, all the other agencies around to help us do that. And the United Way has been a big part of that, along with Williamstown Community Chest, and so many other businesses and individuals that support us. So it is the community that helps us succeed and helps us do what we're doing."
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