Thanksgiving community feasts set for Northampton, Amherst

  • Helena Alves packs meals to go during the Manna Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. The room where the volunteers were putting meals to go is usually filled with tables and people waiting patiently to be served a warm dinner. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 11/15/2021 8:43:27 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Local social service organizations are planning their annual Thanksgiving dinners for the community using similar home delivery and pick-up methods to those that were introduced last year under COVID-19 safety measures.

Much like last year, Manna Soup Kitchen in Northampton and Not Bread Alone in Amherst will serve dinners on Thanksgiving afternoon and while the Amherst Survival Center will host a meal the day before.

Lee Anderson, Manna’s treasurer, said the organization plans to cook and give away upwards of 1,000 meals this Thanksgiving, with dishes including mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, green vegetables, a dessert, and, of course, fresh turkey, cooked right at Smith College’s dorms.

“We’re pretty much an all-volunteer organization,” Anderson said, noting that between 70 and 100 volunteers will be scheduled for meal prep during the four days leading up to the event. He estimates 75 delivery drivers will volunteer to drop off meals for free starting at 10 a.m. to those in Northampton, Williamsburg, Westhampton, Southampton, Easthampton, Whately, Hatfield, and Hadley.

Those who would rather pick up their dinner in person at Edwards Church at 297 Main St. are welcome to do so from noon to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Limited seating will be available under a tent at St. John’s Episcopal Church down the street for anyone who would like to eat outside.

Anderson is encouraging those interested in delivery or pickup to register in advance on Manna’s website, mannanorthampton.org, or by calling (413) 695-3514.

He said it’s important to note that the dinner is for “anyone experiencing food insecurity,” not just those experiencing homelessness.

“We don’t want people to make any choice between an expense and food,” he said, explaining that people should prioritize clothes and shelter while letting Manna take care of their food needs this holiday.

K.B. McConnell, founder of the harm reduction nonprofit Nothing But Kindness, will be involved with the street outreach aspect of Manna’s Thanksgiving dinner. At the event, he will be providing hand warmers and sleeping bags to those in need, as well as leading a housing initiative to connect people experiencing homelessness to shelters.

“Whether it was through evictions or people losing their jobs,” he said, “there’s a lot of first-time homeless people out there.” For McConnell, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to help them navigate resources and “get people connected.”

Amherst

Not Bread Alone, a program for the Center for Human Development, will be providing a similar dinner at the First Congregational Church in Amherst on Thanksgiving afternoon. Bob Stover, the program’s supervisor, is still working out the details but predicts the meal will be served around 1:30 p.m. with the option for participants to take their meal to go or sit and eat inside the church at socially distanced tables.

Last year, Stover said the event had “lots of good help and lots of good food,” and the group hopes to recreate that success this year in his upcoming search for volunteers as well as turkey and ham donations.

Lev Ben-Ezra, the executive director of Amherst Survival Center, said the social service organization “will be providing a full Thanksgiving meal” on Wednesday, Nov. 24, featuring turkey and all the traditional fixings.

Two staff members, along with an estimated 10 volunteers, will oversee preparation for an expected 300 meals to go alongside turkey contributions from UMass Dining and pie contributions from North Star, a learning center in Sunderland.

The dinners will be available from noon to 3 p.m. at Amherst Survival Center’s location at 138 Sunderland Road. Ben-Ezra said, “no registration is necessary and everyone is welcome.”

Before COVID-19, she said Amherst Survival Center “used to host large in-person community sit-down meals.” Although this year “all meals will be packaged to go,” Ben-Ezra said, she hopes live music will bring a festive community spirit to the event.

Manna’s Anderson shared this sentiment, saying “our philosophy is to bring people together,” a goal made considerably more challenging in the wake of the pandemic. Despite this, he said he hopes to bring “a connection to the guests even though we’re not eating at the same table.”

“We’re doing the best we can during COVID to keep that connection,” he said.




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