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PITTSFIELD — After Judy Toomey explained why she was setting up a drive-thru in the parking lot next to Walmart and Home Depot, a man handed her a $100 bill.

Toomey and members of the Local 12325 United Steelworkers Union of Pittsfield were preparing to hand out 75 meals to those in need.

"[The food] is going quicker and quicker, and more people are coming because the word is getting out," Toomey, president of Local 12325, said on Saturday. "We got here a bit before 12 and there were already 10 cars in line before we packaged meals."

Toomey, who organized the event hosted by Berkshire Pay It Forward, a group formed by Local 12325, said they are seeing many repeat donors to the cause "because it is pretty easy to donate on our Facebook page. It has been great and it's good do to something for your community."

Berkshire Pay It Forward created a Facebook page where people could donate in order to pay for these meals. Since creating the call to action on April 22, more than 100 people have combined to raise nearly $7,000 on Facebook alone. The donations have allowed Berkshire Pay It Forward to donate meals for more than a month.

Roughly a dozen volunteers arrived Saturday to help direct traffic and create care packages consisting of homemade lasagna, soup and bread.

Brandon Horn, a chef at Sweetwood, an independent living community in Williamstown, has been making the soup and bread from scratch each week.

"It's been great," said Horn, who also owns Horn of Plenty Catering. "I've had people come through and ask about the different soups I'd be making that week. You always leave here feeling pretty good about yourself, that is for sure."

Berkshire Pay It Forward arrived with 75 meals, but that number is actually around 300 as each meal is meant for four people.

"A lot of people are pretty miserable with everything going on, which is expected," Horn said. "But people come through here feeling legitimately good that there are a group of people out here trying to help them out and give them a decent meal with their family."

Berkshire Pay It Forward has worked with Wohrle's Foods to obtain meats, despite difficulties because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Toomey and the other volunteers never expected to hand out this many meals, but will continue to do so each week as long as donations continue to roll in.

"Maybe next week we'll have to do a little more and are looking at a minimum of 75 to 100 meals," Toomey said. "Being our fifth week, we've given out a lot of good meals, and we feel pretty good about that."

Jake Mendel can be reached at jmendel@berkshireeagle.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.


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