By Andy McKeever
12:18PM / Wednesday, October 17, 2018
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Thanksgiving really isn't that far away.
At the South Congregational Church, volunteers are already gearing up for the Thanksgiving Angels program, which provides turkeys and all of the sides to thousands of local residents in need. On Wednesday, Berkshire Money Management helped kick off the season with a $2,500 donation.
"The week before Thanksgiving people start donating but it takes a long time to organize these events," said Nichole Dupont, community development director for Berkshire Money Management.
Years ago, Berkshire Money Management used to hold its own turkey giveaway and the donation helps carry on that tradition for the company. This year, the investment management firm wanted to get an early start on the giving season.
Dupont was joined by financial planner Zack Marcotte to present the check to the program's coordinators Mary Wheat and Mary Rentz.
"It shows great community support," Rentz said, adding that the Berkshire Bank Foundation is also expected to donate $2,500.
The program is massive. On the Monday before Thanksgiving nearly every year there have been lines of families overflowing the church and into the parking lot. Rentz said the pantry this year is moving a volunteer station that was in the center of the auditorium where the food was given out and moving it upstairs so more people can fit inside. In the last few years, the weather had been very cold and people were waiting in line.
Outside, Rentz said there will be more tents and Berkshire Health Systems and the Salvation Army will be on hand to provide such things as hot cider for those waiting.
"We're going to try to make our guests as comfortable as possible and get them in as quick as possible," she said.
Last year 1,450 households benefited from the free turkeys. This year the group is expecting 1,550. The program has been growing just about every year.
The South Congregational Church asks for people to sign up ahead of time to ensure there is enough for everyone. And with those numbers it becomes costly. Wheat said the turkeys alone will cost between $22,000 and $24,000.
The group said there is always a need for donations to make the program possible and those can be made to the church or online. They will also accept donated turkeys.
The church runs both the program and a regular food pantry. Rentz said the pantry serves some 500 families. Wheat said just in Berkshire County there are 34,000 people identified as being in need and countrywide food pantries served 1.9 million pounds of food to close to 1.7 million people.