Northampton restaurateur buys 800 lbs. of turkey for community meals in spirit of ‘filotimo’

  • Filos Greek Taverna owner Konstantinos Sierros stands near pictures of Greece on display at the Northampton restaurant, including one of himself at the age of 6, and one of his late mother, Dimitra Sierros. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Filos Greek Taverna owner Konstantinos Sierros, left, and employees, from left, Selvin Flores, Blanca Hernandez, Mario Moreno, Becky Hillman and Elizabeth Wayne pose outside the Northampton restaurant on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A sign in the open doorway of Artisan Gallery on Main Street in Northampton on Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020. FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Patty Arbour, owner of The Artisan Gallery on Main Street. FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2020 4:11:03 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Konstantine Sierros wasn’t sure why he picked up the phone on Friday and called some of the people he knows at the Manna Soup Kitchen in Northampton. But he’s glad he did.

So is everyone at the community kitchen.

That’s because the kitchen’s usual plan to pick up discounted turkeys this year for its annual free Thanksgiving dinner had fallen through. So Sierros, the owner of Florence Pizza and Filos Greek Taverna, in Northampton, stepped up and bought over 800 pounds of turkey and numerous fixings for Manna’s big day, when the charitable organization is anticipating serving over 600 Thanksgiving dinners, whether for takeout or home delivery.

“On Friday, I was sitting and thinking, ‘What am I going to tell the board?’” said Lee Anderson, Manna’s main cook, referring to how his initial plan for procuring turkeys had come up empty. “Then the phone rings, and [Sierros] is offering to help. I’m a spiritual person, and that was an amazing moment.”

For his part, Sierros said he has long been an admirer of the work the Manna Soup Kitchen does, and he sees his spontaneous donation to the kitchen’s Thanksgiving meal as in keeping with “filotimo,” a Greek word that essentially means doing good by others.

“The community has helped me out so many times over the years,” he said. “Now I’m just giving something back … This is a tough time for everyone, so we just need to pull together and help each other out.”

With the first Thanksgiving in the pandemic just days away, others in the community are stepping up to help the nonprofit community kitchen and other area organizations that serve those who are struggling to put food on the table.

At the Amherst Survival Center, for instance, a virtual “Hike for Hunger” program that began Nov. 1, in which volunteers get people to sponsor them to hike to raise money for the center, has collected almost $16,000. Those funds, though not specifically earmarked for Thanksgiving, are needed to help meet an increasing need for overall assistance, Survival Center officials say. For instance, this year the center has more than doubled the daily lunches it serves — now up to 250.

‘Turning art into food’

In Northampton, the Artisan Gallery, a Main Street fixture since 1984, has been selling additional artwork since October and giving those funds to the Manna Soup Kitchen. So far, says owner Patty Arbour, they’ve been able to raise about $2,000 for Manna.

“We’re turning art into food,” said Arbour. “We feel it’s our way to give back to this community that gave us such wonderful support when we first came here. We’re coming back full circle.”

Arbour, who is married to multidisciplinary artist Chuck Stern, said business has been very tough during the pandemic, which prompted her to decide to close her store at the end of December. But in going through the gallery’s inventory, she found additional work by her husband and by artist friends that they set up in a special part of the building and set aside for the community kitchen; items are priced affordably, she said, and have made for good gifts for people.

“I think people appreciate the idea of buying something that helps people in need,” she said. “[Manna] is a wonderful organization that’s all about making food available with love and dignity. It feels good to be a part of that.”

After telling Lee Anderson he wanted to help him out, Sierros, the restaurant owner, went down Saturday with the Manna cook to Restaurant Depot in Chicopee, a wholesale food supplier for restaurants, to pick up turkeys and other fixings for this Thursday. The big haul started with 42 turkeys weighing in at over 20 pounds each, said Anderson — but Sierros wasn’t done.

“He said ‘What else do you need?’ and I said ‘That’s fine,’” recalled Anderson. “And he goes, ‘Oh, no, that’s not enough, you can’t do that,’ so we got cases of stuffing mix and cranberry sauce and gravy mix, too.”

“I guess he was going to twist my arm,” he added with a laugh. “He was amazingly generous. He’s helped us out before, but this was just incredible.”

Anderson said Manna typically gets discounted Thanksgiving turkeys from Stop & Shop in Northampton, but they weren’t available this year.

“They’ve been good to us in the past, really helpful,” he said.

Sierros said he knew Manna Soup Kitchen was facing increased demand this year and, as someone who’s been in the food business for years himself, he felt an obligation to help out. “You don’t want anyone going without a Thanksgiving meal,” he said.

Anderson said the most Thanksgiving meals the kitchen has delivered in the past came to about 280. This year, there were already 500 orders as of Monday, he noted. And based on how many people have typically come for the sit-down meal the organization serves in the Edwards Church on Thanksgiving, there may well be 100 to 120 people showing up at the church this year for takeout dinners, he added.

Also in Northampton, the India House restaurant has offered to donate various foods for Thursday’s meal, Anderson said.

“We’re all dealing with a lot this year, and to see this kind of spirit and generosity, it means so much,” he said.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.


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