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East Longmeadow, Longmeadow battle for Selectmen’s Cup

Date: 10/18/2011

Oct. 17, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW — The battle for the border between Longmeadow and East Longmeadow will be renewed this November.

Sure, there’s a football game, too, but the food drive could be the hottest competition between the two towns beforehand.

Longmeadow Selectman Paul Santaniello and East Longmeadow Selectman Jack Villamaino met with the media at Romito & Sons to kick off this year’s Selectmen’s Cup food drive.

The drive, now in its second year, keeps with the tradition of the annual Thanksgiving rivalry football game between East Longmeadow and Longmeadow, pitting the two towns against each other in a race to gather the most food for those in need as the holiday season approaches.

“Jimmy [Driscoll] is still recovering from losing to us last year, so Jack is taking over as co-chair with me this year,” Santaniello joked.

Last year’s drive yielded more than 3,000 pounds of food for the emergency food pantry at Open Pantry Community Services Inc., according to Villamaino.

“This year, we’re going to top this number,” he said.

While all of last year’s collection was done in one week leading up to the football game with all the food going to Open Pantry, Santaniello and Villamaino were excited to announce the expansion of the food drive to two weeks.

“The second week we will still have a food drive for the Open Pantry, but the first week we are going to be raising money for our local food pantries,” Santaniello explained. “Unfortunately, there is a need in both communities and the idea is if we are helping the community at large, we can also help our local community.”

Santaniello added that the goal is to eventually make the food drive a month-long effort, a goal he feels is attainable, given the support the community has given the project thus far.

“Both [football] coaches have jumped on board and did a lot for us last year. They have been absolutely fantastic,” Santaniello said. “[Longmeadow Cable Access Television] did a food drive for the Open Pantry and they fell in with us and the student governments at the high school have also agreed to get involved.”

Villamaino said incorporating a drive with a football game that has recently been one of the most hotly contested rivalries in Western Massachusetts has been a huge factor in the success of the program.

“For many graduating classes, this is a reunion weekend,” he said. “It’s a big game because for a lot of these kids, it’s maybe the last time they get to play in a Division I football game and, depending on where it is, it’s the last home game a lot of those seniors will play. I think that adds to the importance of the game and tying the food drive in with that gives us an opportunity to have an important cause wrapped up in an important game.”

Drop-off locations for food items have yet to be determined, but Santaniello and Villamaino said in a worst-case scenario, collections would take place at the high schools, as well as the Pleasant View Senior Center in East Longmeadow and the Adult Center in Longmeadow.

“Where ever the drop-offs are, our goal is to collect one more can than Longmeadow,” Villamaino said.

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