By Tammy Daniels
06:20PM / Thursday, November 16, 2017
Mayor Richard Alcombright helps with his final delivery as mayor.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The annual citywide food drive delivered hundreds of pounds of food on Thursday morning for the Friendship Center Food Pantry.
The annual drive collects nonperishable foods from the North Adams Public Schools, City Hall, Police Department, Fire Department, Spitzer Center and the library.
"This is just another fun day in being able to provide this," Mayor Richard Alcombright said after helping carry boxes into the Eagle Street pantry. "I want to thank Rosemari [Dickinson] and certainly thank Ellen [Sutherland] for their efforts in spearheading this and for all the employees of the city who provided all we see here."
The city's been doing the annual collection since the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative opened the pantry, in cooperation with Berkshire Community Action Council and the Western Massachusetts Food Bank, six years ago.
Richard Davis, the pantry's director, said it serves about 140 to 150 families every Wednesday. That's down a little bit from a few years ago.
"It's been pretty stable, people come and go," he said. "Hopefully, people find jobs or whatever and don't have to depend upon us but then someone comes in who needs it."
It tries to ensure a healthy variety of foods and can always use donations of tuna, peanut butter, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, pasta sacuse, low sodium canned vegetables and soups, whole grain cereals and oatmeal, no sugar added canned fruits, and beans. It also appreciates donations of personal care items and diapers.
"Outside of food, it's items that they can't buy with food stamps — toothpaste, soap, toothbrushes, paper towels," Davis said. "Toilet paper is something everybody wants and everybody needs. ... It's only 50 cents a roll, 60 cents, but it means a lot to a lot of these people because they just don't have the resources that cover all their needs."
Sutherland, assistant to the superintendent of schools, said she deals mainly with the School Department.
"They just always rise to the occasion," she said. "We're in the middle of our United Way drive, we run them together, and we're having a great year with that ... I think our school commuity is really in touch with what people need and they do so much more than what people realize. ...
"I'm really grateful for working in such a caring place."
Dickinson, the mayor's administrative assistant, said she does follows Sutherland's lead. "It's all Ellen," she said.
Mark Rondeau, who has been volunteering at the pantry since its inception, thanked the city for its support.
"Mayor Alcombright and the city have been a huge help since we opened as a food pantry in 2011," he said.
This is Alcombright's last time as mayor participating in the drive. He ends his fourth and final term Dec. 31.
"We just need to keep supporting this effort. Mark and all the guys here have just done a wonderful job," he said. "Really, its the only game in town that provides this service for so many families who are in need ... thanks really goes out to them because this is a team effort."
The Friendship Center Food Pantry at 45 Eagle St. is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. every Wednesday. Food donations are taken on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. or email email@example.com