Photo Gallery | Thanksgiving Angels in Pittsfield
PITTSFIELD — Hundreds of the city's less fortunate Monday afternoon braved a biting November wind waiting to enter the rear of South Congregational Church to receive donated groceries for a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner.
For more than six hours, volunteers with the Thanksgiving Angels program doled out 1,500 frozen turkeys, tons of fresh onions, cabbage and squash, numerous boxes of stuffing mix, cases of canned cranberry sauce, green beans, and about 1,000 each of homemade pies and breads.
The prepare-your-own Thanksgiving feasts people carried or carted out from the parish house, organizers said, were expected to feed upward of 6,000 men, women and children on Thursday — a staggering number for several of first-time help.
"I'm amazed the amount of food people need," said Natalie Agrela, an eighth-grader at Reid Middle School.
"I didn't realize how many families need help," noted Roger Kohler, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Reid.
Agrela, Kohler along with nearly 40 other Reid students, teachers and staff, were among the dozens of local school and youth group who donated their time for the fourth annual holiday food giveaway.
Thanksgiving Angels is a collaboration of 16 city churches, civic and social organizations who spent several weeks prior to Monday gathering the turkeys and all the fixings — as well as monetary donations — so no one would leave the church empty handed. In addition, a fundraising concert was held Friday to raise money toward the purchase of the frozen poultry.
The charitable event was streamlined in 2013 by designating South Congregational Church as a single locale for program registration and food distribution to ensure there were enough Thanksgiving meals to go around.
During the last two years' allocation people waited upward of three hours to pick up their groceries, hence organizers rounded up more help this year to move the line faster — and it worked, according to Mary Wheat, head of the South Congregational Church food pantry.
"Everybody is working together," she said. "We have 16 groups and a lot more help."
With a stiff wind and temperatures struggling to reach 40 degrees, even an hour wait required people to bundle up with the help of shiny mylar solar blankets provided courtesy the United Methodist Women .
"I take one backpacking and they are a lifesaver," said Rev. Joel Huntington, pastor of South Congregational Church. "I was handing them out and people in line were grateful."
To keep the masses warm and nourished, Ben Hamilton and James Williams of Soldier On grilled up hundreds of hot dogs, that for some, were breakfast.
"When we got here at nine o'clock, there was a line all the way up to that porch," Williams said, pointing to a house a few hundred feet away on Church Street.
Those who consumed the frankfurters nestled in a bun were very appreciative.
"Everyone is polite and happy and some thought [the hot dogs] were for sale," Hamilton said.
Editor's note: This article was updated on Nov. 24, 2015 to correct that the mylar solar blankets were provided by the United Methodist Women.