PITTSFIELD -- A week before Christmas, more than two dozen local organizations received a financial boost from a local bank to help feed the needy.
The Berkshire Bank Foundation, the charitable arm of Berkshire Bank, on Tuesday awarded a total of $26,000 -- $1,000 each -- to the county's 26 food pantries.
The philanthropic effort, formally announced at the Colonial Theatre, comes as hundreds of Berkshire households struggle to feed their families during the winter months, according to several Berkshire food banks.
"We're very, very grateful for this infusion of money," said Carol Purcel, president of the People's Food Pantry in Great Barrington. "The economic good times are eluding people."
"We're seeing more and more large families, more [single mothers] and men looking for work," added Larry Clairmont, director of the Pope John Paul Food Pantry. The Adams-based volunteer group, which also provides clothing and diapers, currently serves about 300 households in Adams, Cheshire and Savoy.
Berkshire Bank Foundation initially contributed $1,000 to each local food pantry in 2001, but felt compelled to help out again in 2013, according to foundation officials.
"A lot of people have recovered from the Great Recession, but many others are worse off than two years ago -- the numbers are way up," said foundation Executive Director Peter Lafayette.
In North Adams, the Friendship Center Food Pantry reports a 25 percent spike in usage since the fall.
"This money will help us break even for the [calendar] year," said the pantry's treasurer, Stuart Crampton.
And food bank volunteers foresee a tough start to 2014.
"People are being laid off, fuel costs are up -- the economy is still in rough shape for many people," noted Jim Armstrong, of the food pantry at St. Joseph Church in Pittsfield.
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Berkshire Bank Foundation, the charitable arm of Berkshire Bank, has awarded $1,000 to each of following 26 food pantries that help feed the needy in Berkshire County:
n Pittsfield: Salvation Army, Christian Center, St. Joseph Church, St. Mark's Church, South Congregational Church, First Baptist Church, Soldier On, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Tuesday's Harvest Pantry, Reigning Love Church, Christian Assembly, St. Charles Church, and St. Stephens Episcopal Church.
n North Adams: Salvation Army, Friendship Center Food Pantry and Berkshire Food Project.
n Adams: Pope John Paul Food Pantry
n Becket: Becket Food Pantry
n Dalton: St. Agnes Church
n Great Barrington: People's Pantry
n Hinsdale: Hinsdale Food Pantry ,
n Lanesborough: VFW Food Pantry
n Lee: Lee Food Pantry
n Sheffield: Sheffield Food Assistance
n Williamstown: Williamstown Food Pantry