PITTSFIELD — Taconic High School senior students crafted the message, and the community answered.
On Wednesday afternoon, representatives from two local eateries dropped off hot meals for staff at Hillcrest Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Along with Elder Services of Berkshire County and Price Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, the nursing home was one of three organizations that received hot meals this day through an initiative born in Taconic teacher Heather McNeice’s marketing class.
McNeice said she was inspired to launch the lesson and fundraiser after learning about another community in New York that found a way to help out local restaurants, hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, while distributing meals of chicken Parmesan, pasta and salad to organizations in the community.
The educational component came early: McNeice’s senior marketing students worked to craft advertising and a news release to amplify word of the fundraiser. McNeice said her sister, Sarah Auge, reached out to “every restaurant in town” asking whether they would like to participate, and then set out fundraising.
Eight eateries — Patrick’s Pub, Otto’s Kitchen and Comfort, The Roasted Garlic, Zucchini’s, Papa Joe’s, the Hot Dog Ranch, Mazzeo’s Ristorante and Highland Restaurant — signed up, she said.
After the students’ news release was circulated, donations rolled in, she said. And by Dec. 20, McNeice took to Facebook to announce that they had raised over $30,000, smashing their fundraising goal and allowing them to serve about 3,000 meals.
“Over 300 separate donations were made by people who live in Pittsfield to support their neighbors, and the restaurants they love,” McNeice told The Eagle.
For each meal that participating restaurants delivered, they received $10 from the money raised, said Shannon Lovallo, a manager at Patrick’s Pub.
“Every penny right now is honestly generous,” Lovallo said. “Just like every other restaurant right now, we’re trying to make things work.”
All told, hot meals were delivered to over a dozen nonprofits, including the local Boys & Girls Club of the Berkshires, the homeless shelter at the former St. Joseph Central High School and the Elizabeth Freeman Center, according to McNeice.
Lovallo and another manager of the pub, Karrie Chapman, hurriedly carried boxes containing individually packaged warm meals into the lobby of Hillcrest Commons on Valentine Road. They they delivered 100 meals to the facility, and had dropped off many more to other organizations last week, Lovallo said.
A food delivery from Otto’s followed, and the meals promptly wewre offered to staff to take home for themselves and their family members. To Lovallo, the initiative served as a balm to the creeping worry she wasn’t doing enough to help out during the pandemic, despite working to keep as many staff employed at Patrick’s as possible.
“It’s something positive to do during these hard times,” she said.
COVID-19 claimed the lives of dozens of residents during the outbreak, which began Nov. 18. Hillcrest Commons Executive Director Delores Duncan said that, currently, there are no active cases among residents at Hillcrest Commons, and she spoke about the commitment and diligence on the part of staff as they sought to respond.
Duncan stood outside the facility and thanked Lovallo and Chapman after a difficult stretch of weeks.
“You have no idea what it really means,” Duncan told them. “We’ve been through a lot.”