NORTH ADAMS — From peanut butter to toothpaste, it was a haul that Al Nelson would have been proud of.

The annual city food drive to benefit the Al Nelson Friendship Center brought in a record-setting level of donations, surpassing 1,000 pounds for the first time since it began in 2011.

This was the first year the drive took place without Nelson, who co-founded the Friendship Center and died this year, after a lifetime of community service. Now, the Friendship center bears his name.

"The community has always been extremely supportive of us. I always loved how our community pulls together," said Mark Rondeau, board president at the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative, which oversees the Friendship Center. "This thousand pounds is a big deal and a great help."

Local students decorated collection boxes that were placed at strategic locations throughout the city, including City Hall, the North Adams Public Schools administrative office, the North Adams Public Library, the Mary Spitzer Center, and the North Adams police and fire departments.

Local officials, including Mayor Thomas Bernard and North Adams Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Malkas, were joined by Friendship Center volunteers as they delivered the boxes of food and personal care items to the Friendship Center headquarters on Eagle Street.

The final tally was 1,044 pounds of nonperishable goods — a record.

"My hope was that we would hit 1,000 [pounds], and the fact that we did exceed that makes me personally happy," Bernard said. "The fact that we had a truck full of food to help people in need in our community is gratifying."

The annual drive has benefited the center every year since its inception in 2011.

"You don't like to think about that level of need existing in our community, or any community, particularly around a holiday like Thanksgiving," Bernard said. "The fact that people stepped forward, stepped up and dug deep to contribute is really gratifying and a good sign of community spirit."

With Nelson's passing, Rondeau said there has been a renewed interest in the work the Friendship Center does to help those in need and carrying out a simple philosophy — "treat people as equals."

Adam Shanks can be reached at, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.