Thanksgiving Angels expects to help more than 1,500 families this year


PITTSFIELD — Volunteerism on the rise for the annual effort of local faith-based and community groups to ensure thousands of the city's less fortunate have a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner next month.

Congregation Knesset Israel, Giving Garden of Pittsfield Church of Christ and Berkshire Community Action Council have joined 13 other churches, civic and social organizations of the Thanksgiving Angels program. The holiday charitable collaboration in its fourth season is seeking monetary and food donations that will provide meals for up to an estimated 6,000 men, women and children, according to organizers.

This year's distribution of frozen turkeys, potatoes, green beans, stuffing mix, pies and other fixings, should benefit at least 100 more families than last year — more than double the 700 served in the program's debut year of 2012.

"We would expect probably 1,500 plus, given the economy," said Jim Armstrong, a coordinator for the St. Joseph Church food pantry. "As winter approaches, we are finding more people coming to our pantry and we're open just once a week."

For the third consecutive year, South Congregational Church, with one of the Berkshires' largest food pantries, will dole out the prepare-your-own Thanksgiving feast on the Monday before the holiday, Nov. 23. The Rev. Joel Huntington, pastor of the church, also sees a growing need to keep food on many household tables.

"I would love if we were shrinking, but in recent weeks we've been busy [at our food pantry,]" he said. "What improvements there have been in the economy nationally aren't being felt here."

The other churches involved in Thanksgiving Angels are First United Methodist, First Congregational, First Baptist, St. Stephen's, St. Mark's, Sacred Heart, St. Charles, St. Nicholas Orthodox and St. George Greek Orthodox, as well as Soldier On, The Christian Center and Salvation Army on West Street.

A kick-off, of sorts, for the holiday goodwill will be at 6 p.m. Friday at South Congregational Church with a fundraising concert by Tommy T. and Black Velvet. The $15 tickets available at the church at 110 South St. or by calling (413) 442-7357. Proceeds will help buy the frozen turkeys.

The Thanksgiving Angels' participating organizations — nearly all with their own food pantries — initially pooled their resources three years ago to avoid duplication of effort.

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South Congregational Church will host registration for the program, open primarily to those who frequent the food pantries at the participating churches and other organizations.

The program was streamlined in 2013 by designating a single location for the program registration and food distribution to ensure there were enough Thanksgiving meals to go around.

During last two years' allocation, the line of people waiting to pick up their Thanksgiving groceries stretched well outside the back of South Congregational Church for more than five hours.

Huntington praises the volunteers, including several youth groups, for helping with the distribution.

"One of gift of [Thanksgiving Angels] is the deepening collaboration," he said. "It's time to make life better in the community."

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.

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Families may register for the Thanksgiving Angels program the week of Oct. 26 at South Congregational Church. Registration times are 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 26 and Oct. 30; 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 27 and Oct. 29, and 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 28.

Those wishing to donate toward the cost of the turkeys can mail a check to Thanksgiving Angels c/o South Congregational Church, 110 South St. Pittsfield, MA 01201.


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