Whitman and Hanson food pantries, may be seeing greater demand for their services due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but residents who can have been pitching in to help all summer — and those efforts have been continuing.
Whitman’s Boy Scouts have been the latest to contribute.
Cub Scout Packs 59 and 22, and Boy Scout Troop 22, collected 8,000 pounds of food this month to help the pantry’s need to help fight food insecurity in town, according to Director Bruce Perry.
“This amount raised was the most ever in a Scout Drive and it was a result of all the hard work by the scouts and their families, and also to the generosity of the residents of Whitman,” he said noting it was done almost entirely through social media and word of mouth. “It is truly amazing how the Whitman community comes through when asked.”
Perry said the COVID-safe collection yielded twice as much as last year’s donations. People were asked to drop off donations at the Congregational Church.
“It was fantastic because our resources from St. Vincent DePaul in Stoughton has pretty much [dried up],” Perry said. “We haven’t been able to get anything out of there, because they didn’t do any of the Thanksgiving or Christmas baskets like they usually do.
Whitman’s pantry typically pays $10 per meal with a turkey and all the fruits and vegetables required for a holiday meal.
“They didn’t have the funds, for one thing, I don’t think,” he said this week. “They just said they weren’t going to be able to do it. I think it’s also because of the high demand coming out of Greater Boston Food Bank.”
Perry said that when St. Vincent DePaul couldn’t promise anything to client communities this year, they decided to ask local pantries to try to meet their needs on their own.
“One thing that helped us out was the Wahlberg Fund,” he said. “They helped us out this year with a lot of the things that St. Vincent DePaul usually helps with.”
The Wahlberg Fund supplied 100 turkeys, fruit and vegetables.
“This is the second year they’ve helped us out,” Perry said. “I think a lot of people had planned on another $1,200 [in federal stimulus money] coming to them and, unfortunately, it hasn’t so we have seen a slight increase in the number of people that need help — and not just one-time help, these are folks that have been coming back the last six or eight months since COVID started.”
The pantries in both towns were also faced with the COVID-related cancelation of annual summer fundraising events such as the McGuiggan’s Pub 5K, a Freetown triathlon where pantry volunteers worked in exchange for a donation, a K of C golf tournament and other fundraisers — which meant a loss of between $12,000 to $16,000.
Claire LaMattina’s “Whitman Strong” sign project brought in $15,500 for the pantry. A similar lawn sign project raised about $3,000 for the Hanson Pantry, according to Director Christine Cameron.
“We’re in very good shape,” she said. “Our contributions have been phnomenal, we have huge community support.”
While they are seeing some new people coming in for assistance, Cameron said the client numbers have remained fairly steady.
“Somebody up there is watching over us,” Perry said. “This was the perfect year for her to do something like this, because it made up for the lost revenue that we usually get from all those fundraisers as well as the number of people we help.”
Personal donations of all or part of stimulus checks from other residents has also helped.
The pantry will be giving out 125 holiday meal baskets and has donated close to $5,000 in gift cards to the Whitman Area Toy Drive, who also refer families in need to the pantry.
The pantry usually raises about half its donations over the last three months of the year.
At Thanksgiving, students at Whitman’s Louise A. Conley Elementary School raised $584 for the Whitman Food Pantry and $567.64 for Whitman Animal Control, according to district officials. The funds were matched by the school’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC), meaning each organization received over $1,100.
In addition, one of the school’s longtime friends, Sandy McCarthy, presented the school with yet another matching donation from her company, AEW Capital Management, to add to the gift.
The school’s typical Thanksgiving celebration needed to be cancelled this year, but in its place the school held a special fundraiser, “A Dollar for Dinner, a Penny for Paws,” to raise money for the projects.
“I am so humbled by the generosity of our community, but even more so by the commitment and feeling behind it,” Principal Downey said. “Our students made beautiful cards that were delivered to both the Food Pantry and to the Senior Center. They worked diligently to make something special, something that anyone would be honored to receive. This is what we are all about. Yes, we want our kids to work hard every day, but more importantly we want them to be good neighbors, good friends, and good citizens.”
This month students at Duval Elementary School collected 500 pounds of food to donate to the Whitman Food Pantry for Christmas baskets. Staff from the food pantry picked up the donation at the school Friday, Dec. 11. Several Student Council members assisted Whitman Food Pantry staff with Friday’s pick-up, helping sort and load the shelf-stable food onto a truck. Those members include Joshua Ahola, Jackson Barbosa, Meriem Fleury, Izobel Gilchrist, Alayna Loring, Tristan Lacandula, Isabella Mateus, Sabrina Spadorcia and Maxwell Sarhanis.
The Holiday Food Drive is an annual tradition at the school.
“Seeing as how most of these kids are only in-person two days a week, we were hoping we would still be able to donate a fair amount to the food pantry this year,” said PTO parent Kimberly Sarhanis. “But we should have known that the Duval community would not let this difficult year get in the way, and instead they pulled out an amazing, generous donation of 500 pounds of food.”
Area businesses, such as North Easton Savings Bank, have also supported the pantry.
Distribution is done through consultations over the phone with clients, who then pick up the meals at a proper social distance outside the pantry. No one is allowed inside.
Whitman and Hanson students active in the WHRHS Key Club hosting a Food Drive after Thanksgiving to support the Hanson and Whitman Food Pantries.
The Key Club is partnering with the National Honor Society, Food for Thought Club, and the nonprofit organization Project 351. Their goal is to stock the pantries before the December holidays, so people/families will have access to the food they need to enjoy these times. Food items may be dropped off until Dec. 18 to the Student Dining area, the gym and the main office. Cash or gift cards to local businesses should be put in an envelope and brought to either Mrs. Edkin’s or Mr. Szkutak’s rooms.