Amherst Survival Center offers takeout or dine-in for Thanksgiving

  • Sez Morales works on the Thanksgiving day menu board at the Amherst Survival Center Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Kitchen assistant Joel Gladu and Deb Lapaire, a volunteer, prepare containers of food to hand out at the Amherst Survival Center’s Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Laura Kaye, a volunteer, waits as Rafael Galarza packs his food into a bag at the Amherst Survival Center Thanksgiving Day dinner Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Laura Kaye, a volunteer, hands Kurtis McKemmie, of Amherst, cranberry sauce at the Amherst Survival Center Thanksgiving Day dinner Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Erin Taylor volunteering at the Amherst Survival Center Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Erin Taylor and Mindy Domb volunteer at the Amherst Survival Center’s Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Left, Tim VanEgmond and Gale Kuhn look over hand made cards for them to take at the Amherst Survival Center Thanksgiving Day dinner Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 11/24/2021 7:20:06 PM

AMHERST — The Amherst Survival Center was alive with music, hospitality, hot food and camaraderie on Wednesday afternoon, as staff and volunteers distributed traditional Thanksgiving meals in the parking lot of their facility on Sunderland Road.

For the second year in a row, the center provided a holiday meal to go, rather than its annual sit-down gathering, to ensure safe conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This way people can come and pick up a meal for their household and share it with family and friends at home,” Survival Center Executive Director Lev Ben-Ezra said. “I am delighted to see so many people out today and I am grateful to be able to share with the community in a way that is safe.”

Ben-Ezra said she anticipated serving 300 meals during the day.

The feast, made available through donations from the community and local businesses included turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, butternut squash, salad, rolls, pumpkin and apple pies, cookies and beverages.

Community meal director Philip Avila said that the Survival Center purchased the turkeys that were then cooked by UMass Dining. He said they received additional donations from Johnny’s Roadside Diner and Kitchen Farms.

North Star, a learning center in Sunderland, also contributed pies and student volunteers for the event.

“We cooked stuffing, gravy and some pies and put together salads,” Avila said.

Early in the afternoon, those picking up food waited in a socially distanced line while being entertained by musicians Michael and Carrie Kline of Sunderland.

“Music always makes things better,” Carrie Kline said. “As a friend of mine says, you have to sing the people through.”

Indeed, their performance of folk tunes was appreciated by those gathered who applauded after each song.

“This is really very nice,” said one woman who was there with her two young children and wished to remain anonymous. “It’s really great to have the food of course, but they also make it fun and welcoming and that makes a big difference.”

Between noon and 3 p.m., a constant stream of people made their way by four serving stations where they could pick up some turkey and choose from the various boxed-up sides and desserts.

Ben-Ezra was at the end of the food service line handing out beverages as well as bags of crafts and coloring projects for children. She also gave a beautiful handmade Thanksgiving Day card to each person who picked up a meal, as well as additional cards for others with whom they would be sharing their food.

While most people took their food to go, some gathered at four picnic tables to enjoy their meal with others under the afternoon’s sunny blue skies.

Russel Jordan of Amherst said he would be having his meal at home alone this year as his daughter was recently diagnosed with COVID-19.

“I have been coming here for at least 10 years. It is a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday,” Jordan said. “This is a great place, the people are great, and I really appreciate the work they do.”

Sherry Allan of South Deerfield said she had been a longtime volunteer for the Survival Center but ill health had recently made her life very challenging.

“Now it’s me that gets to reap the benefits of this place, and it is a blessing to have such wonderful support,” she said. “This really means a whole lot to me.”

According to Ben-Ezra the number of people seeking services at the Survival Center is on the rise.

“This event, as well as our other programs, have seen really high numbers,” she said.

She also noted that the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is “Giving Tuesday” and a generous supporter has promised to match all contributions to the Survival Center up to $5,000.

Those interested in making donations can do so at: Amherstsurvival.org.




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