Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Local survival center looks to have turkey on all tables


This Thanksgiving holiday, the Amherst Survival Center wants to make sure there is a turkey in every pot for needy families in the area.

Yesterday, the Amherst Survival Center on North Pleasant Street bustled with numerous volunteers and employees working to get together the Thanksgiving packages that the center prepared for families in need. The center was crowded with people happily helping, or getting help for this holiday’s “A Turkey in Every Pot” food drive.

Tracey Levy, program director for Amherst Survival Center, is coordinating “A Turkey in Every Pot” where the center asked the community for donations of turkey, ham, stuffing, squash, potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn bread, green beans, and macaroni and cheese.

Levy said around 400 families signed up to receive the Thanksgiving food boxes this year. She said the families who qualify for the boxes are the same ones that receive food from the center’s emergency food pantry.

The “Turkey in Every Pot” food drive found support from various organizations in Amherst. The Newman’s Center helped around 100 people, the Food Bank of Western Mass was able to help around 150 people, and the UMass men’s lacrosse team donated 45 turkeys and five hams, according to Levy. They also asked individuals in the community to help with donations.

She said the center was responsible for helping the remaining families, but said they are “doing quite well” at this point. Yesterday, she said 30 people were helped with their boxes within the first 30 minutes of being open.

Levy said the food drive helps families from Amherst, Belchertown, Sunderland, Pelham, South Deerfield and South Hadley. According to Levy, Amherst Survival Center has perpetuated this holiday tradition for at least 15 years and said, “We think it’s important that [the families] have access to food so they can have a wonderful holiday.”

Close to 300 of the donated Thanksgiving food boxes have already been given to the families, Levy said, but they hope to give out the remaining boxes by the end of today. Levy is optimistic that the remaining boxes will be connected with the people in need.

Although Amherst Survival Center is trying its best to help local families in need, Levy said the center has seen the effects of the increased poverty rates in Massachusetts. The U.S. Census Bureau released data earlier this year that the overall poverty rate in Massachusetts increased from 10.3 percent in 2009 to 11.4 percent in 2010.

“Our numbers are going up everyday,” she said, “New people are coming in through our door saying ‘I never thought I’d be here.’”

The Amherst Survival Center is not alone in attempting to spread Thanksgiving cheer this year; the First Baptist Church on North Pleasant Street hosted its annual Thanksgiving luncheon after services Sunday.

Erin Ferry, administrator for the church, said this long-time tradition gives local families or students the opportunity to sit down to a Thanksgiving meal if they are otherwise unable to. She said the luncheon serves several international students going to school in the area who live too far away to travel home for the break. She said typically around 120 people attend the luncheon and noted that they see a lot of UMass students in attendance.

“It’s something that some folks here who attend church set in their heart to extend the welcome to people who can’t go home,” she said. “And it’s a place for people to celebrate the holiday with friends here and to meet new people.”

Ferry also said in the past, the church held an international potluck dinner the Sunday before Thanksgiving to give a chance for people to taste exotic dishes all the while continuing the Thanksgiving luncheon tradition. Last year, the church saw around 150 people at the international potluck and the food served included African, Korean, Latin and Indian cuisine.

Ferry also attested to the increase in poverty in Massachusetts, noting the church’s filled warming shelter on cold nights, and the food pantry is serving around 130 families.

“There are certainly quite a lot of people coming by and we’re doing what we can to help them,” she said.

Nancy Pierce can be reached at [email protected].


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