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Tough economy drives a variety of families to food pantry for help

By Lori Szepelak


HOLYOKE As the economy worsens, more families in the city are turning to food pantries and soup kitchens to make ends meet, according to Karen Blanchard, executive director of Providence Ministries for the Needy Inc.

Blanchard had recently sent out an urgent appeal for food since the cupboards were bare at Margaret's Pantry on Cabot Street, a full-service food pantry that provides nonperishable and perishable food products to in-need residents of the greater Holyoke area.

"Margaret's Pantry had turned away families and even closed its doors for a day due to lack of food to distribute," Blanchard said.

What happened next was extraordinary but not surprising since area residents are a generous lot.

"What we have received and continue to receive was an outpouring of support from every household, business and public agency that we can name in Holyoke and surrounding cities," Blanchard added. "Support was shown from as far away as BFI/Allied Waste in Chicopee."

Blanchard noted that with the troubling economy and the onset of cooler weather, her organization is seeing more individuals and families relying on help from Margaret's Pantry and Kate's Kitchen. Kate's Kitchen offers a free noontime meal to anyone, 365 days a year. Kate's Bread Program distributes bread and pastry products at 2 p.m. to the general community every day. Both Kate's Kitchen and Kate's Bread Program are located at 51 Hamilton St.

During the recent food drive, Blanchard said that both Stop & Shops in the city, Pat's Fine Foods, C-Town, Tailgate Picnic, the Holyoke Mayor's office and the Holyoke MAP office, as well as the Holyoke Health Center and Golden China, also made generous contributions to the cause.

"We are extremely grateful for the support offered by our community," Blanchard said. "We would also like to thank the many individuals, church groups and sports teams that donated money and food, and for coming to our rescue when we needed it most."

Jim Orsini of Jim's Auto Center Inc. is also lending his support for an upcoming promotion on Oct. 21 from 7 a.m. to noon. at his 1635 Northampton St. business. Area residents donating nonperishable food items for Kate's Kitchen will receive 25 cents off each gallon of gas and will be entered into a raffle for a $100 gas card. As an added highlight of the morning festivities, Shaggy and the KIX 97.9 Street Team will be on hand from 7 to 9 a.m. to greet customers dropping off their donations and pumping gas.

For more information on how to help the programs of Providence Ministries, call 536-9109.