By Stephen Dravis
01:37PM / Friday, September 11, 2020
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A global pandemic can stop the Williamstown Community Chest from holding its annual fun run this weekend.
But it cannot stop the venerable non-profit from figuring out new ways to serve the community.
On Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on all three remaining Saturdays this month, the Community Chest will accept donations for the town's food pantries and thank donors with a coupon for a "sweet treat" at a local shop.
"What would usually be happening tomorrow is our annual Fun Run," Executive Director Anne Singleton said on Friday morning. "It's a kickoff for our fund-raising campaign and it gives people that feeling of community.
"We obviously can't do that that way this year. But we wanted to find another way to build that feeling of community."
An event to benefit the food pantries at Sts. Patrick and Raphael Parish on Southworth Street and the Community Bible Church on Bridges Road seemed like a natural choice.
"We know the food pantries have been doing amazing work," Singleton said. "They always have, but especially since March.
"We also know that the coming colder months are going to be challenging for many people. We don't have a crystal ball, but we anticipate that will be the case."
Now is the time to keep those pantry shelves stocked, particularly with some of the items of highest need, like personal care items (toilet paper, toothbrushes, etc.), cleaning supplies, soup, diapers and socks. All those items and more are listed on the Community Chest's website
And in addition to helping out the pantries, the fund-raiser will support local businesses through the coupons made possible by a grant from MountainOne Bank.
"As a thank you for contributing, folks who bring contributions will receive a coupon," Singleton said. "That way we can help the local businesses who have always supported us. Everyone is working so hard and doing their best. There's so much uncertainty, and we want to help in any way we can.
"Local businesses have always been so supportive of us when we do the Penny Social at Holiday Walk and things like that. We want to say thank you."
The Community Chest itself, which benefits 17 regional non-profits ranging from the Berkshire Immigrant Center to Louison House to the Berkshire Family YMCA, is facing a challenging fund-raising season ahead.
In addition to seeing the Fun Run put on the shelf after 12 years, the Community Chest faces the possibility that one of its signature events, the Penny Social that packs Williams College's Lasell Gymnasium during Holiday Walk, will be yet another local event lost to COVID-19.
The good news is that the Community Chest was able to meet its fund-raising goal for 2019-20 despite the pandemic. Singleton said the organization's fiscal year ends at the end of this month, and the campaign was very successful.
"As always, people are so generous and supportive of the organizations that receive allocations from us," she said. "I know that people will be as generous as they can possibly be in the coming year.
"We don't know what's going to happen [in December]. The Penny Social is a good fund-raiser and awareness raiser for us. We're working on what will happen instead of that. I wish I could tell you."
Like with the food pantries that will benefit from Saturday's event, the other non-profits who receive funds from the Community Chest have been part of the county's response to increased need during the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, Singleton said.
"It's something that maybe we take for granted sometimes, but it's so wonderful to have organizations that provide services that are strong and steady, and they were ready," she said. "They had to make adjustments to how they serve people, but they did it.
"If we didn't have those organizations in place, it's hard to imagine what it would have looked like. It's a real blessing for us that we didn't have to create those services."
The Williamstown Community Chest's "Sweet Treat September" event runs Sept. 12, 19 and 26. Saturday's kickoff is on the porch at 84 Spring St. On Sept. 19, the non-profit will be collecting for the town's food pantries at the Milne Public Library on Main Street. Those who can't make it on Saturdays can contact the Community Chest to arrange a drop-off by calling 413-458-2443.