Shelter Sunday drives set for Northampton, Amherst

  • In this March 2020 photo, Matt Brown, left, a volunteer for a worldwide Christian organization called The Navigators, disinfects a cot as Kevin Noonan, director of programs for Craig’s Doors, does the same at Craig’s Place, a shelter at First Baptist Church in Amherst. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 9/30/2021 7:38:14 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The annual Shelter Sunday drives in Northampton and Amherst will continue their virtual approach this year with high fundraising goals to support the local homeless and hungry.

Amy Timmins, vice president of community relations at ServiceNet, said the event “evolved into more of a virtual campaign” after social distancing measures prevented in-person canvassing last year.

People who wish to donate can do so on the Northampton and Amherst Shelter Sunday websites or by mail, using donation forms included in community-wide brochures that will be sent out in advance. Timmins said the Northampton drive has a mailing list of 23,000, including residents of Northampton, Florence, Leeds and Easthampton.

Denise Barberet of Craig’s Doors, a nonprofit shelter in Amherst, said the Amherst area drive’s mailing list is expected to reach 11,000 residents in Amherst, Hadley, Pelham, Leverett, and Shutesbury.

Although donations will continue to be accepted through the end of the year, Northampton will begin its drive on Sunday, Oct. 3, and Amherst on Sunday, Oct. 17. Timmins explained that local church leaders will call attention to the drives on these days.

Timmins said the event “has always been about a lot of people giving,” referencing the broad community support the Northampton drive has received over its 30-year history. The drive surpassed its goal of $60,000 last year, which was split evenly among the three organizations in the Shelter Sunday Coalition.

The coalition consists of ServiceNet, which runs the community shelter Grove Street Inn, Friends of Hampshire County Homeless, which runs the Interfaith Emergency Shelter alongside ServiceNet, and Manna Community Kitchen.

In Amherst, the Shelter Sunday drive raised $30,000 last year, with proceeds split 50-50 between Craig’s Doors and Not Bread Alone, a community meal program with the Center for Human Development.

Northampton’s donation goal this year is once again $60,000 and Amherst’s goal is to exceed its total from last year.

Before COVID-19, Barberet said, UMass Amherst students involved in Greek life would volunteer and go door to door asking for donations. Nowadays, Timmins said, they pitch their case using the mailer and Facebook campaigns.

“We can always use money to support our shelters,” said Timmins, emphasizing that their operating costs are funded by community support.

At Grove Street Inn and the Interfaith Emergency Shelter, proceeds will be used to pay for the shelters’ utilities along with expenses, including giving homeless people rides to nearby Social Security offices and issuing identification papers needed to apply for work.

Since the pandemic has forced these shelters to reduce their number of beds, Timmins also mentioned that they are “looking for space where we can expand our winter operation.” This extra space is critical, considering that demand for shelters has grown over the past year and that Northampton High School can no longer function as an emergency shelter.

Grove Street Inn and the Interfaith Emergency Shelter are currently acting as year-round operations.

“The community is really aware of the difficulties people are facing,” Barberet said of the need for food and shelter. “If you don’t have either of those, you’re going to be in rough shape.”


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