By Jack Guerino
07:28PM / Monday, November 20, 2017
Kitchen Manager Darlene Ellis, left, and new Executive Director Kim McMann were prepared for more than 200 people to eat Monday night.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Hundreds were fed Monday evening at the Berkshire Food Project's Thanksgiving Dinner, part of its charge in making sure no one goes hungry this holiday season.
The non-profit's new Executive Director Kim McMann said she feels this annual event is one that truly brings people together.
"One of the things that is really special about Thanksgiving dinner is that we have people that don't usually eat with us come in and eat with the people who eat with us every day," she said. "People see each other's faces and they start to talk about things and they find out they aren't that different from each other."
Taking over the food project was something of a return for McMann, who succeeded retired longtime director Valerie Schwarz in September. She was the Northern Berkshire coordinator for Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and director of planning for the Berkshire Community Action Council before heading west to the New York State Community Action Association for five years.
McMann, who has been involved with several projects to increase food security in Northern Berkshire County, said this Thanksgiving Dinner is very familiar to her.
"This isn't my first time here, it may be my first time here as executive director, but I have been here before," she said. "We also have an incredible staff that knows this program and building inside and out."
She, her staff and volunteers had been cooking turkeys for more than a week in preparation for the dinner at First Congregational Church.
McMann said her staff prepared 24 turkeys, 50 pounds of potatoes, 50 pounds of turnip and massive amounts of other cornerstone Thanksgiving favorites.
She expected nearly 250 people to dine in the church's large hall in two seatings.
McMann said the massive dinner would not be possible without the support of the community that volunteers and donate to the cause.
"Just over the weekend, people were calling to see if we needed more help. We are so lucky," she said. "There is a little boy back there serving turkey. He is 13 years old and he donated ten turkeys he bought with his allowance."
Even outgoing Mayor Richard Alcombright and newly elected state Rep. John Barrett III helped serve food.
The food project normally serves lunch but on one day a year, it offers up the full turkey dinner in two sittings because it doesn't serve on the holiday. McMann said because of the outpouring of volunteers, she may move the dinner to Thanksgiving Day in the future.
The only thing she changed about the dinner this year was the way the tables were set up and she plans to keep operations at the Berkshire Food Project similar to how they have been conducted in the past.
Although she has some new ideas, she does not plan on making any changes until the first of the year.
"I am not going to change anything, and I want to take a step back," she said. "I am surveying our volunteers right now and I want to get a feel and get feedback before I start changing anything. I have some ideas but right now they are just my ideas."