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Hasbro Children's Giving Tree teams up with Food Bank

Date: 11/29/2010

Nov. 29, 2010

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- Now in its 26th year, the Hasbro, Inc., Children's Giving Tree program at the Eastfield Mall has a new partner.

This year marks the first year Hasbro and the United Way of the Pioneer Valley will join forces with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, offering the community the opportunity to help families in need of food stuffs.

"We're delighted to be partnering with Hasbro. They have such a large presence in our region and, of course, the country," Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, said. "It takes corporate leadership to help us raise awareness among community members and households."

On Nov. 23, Hasbro Vice President George Burtch stood alongside Morehouse, Dora Robinson, CEO and president of United Way of the Pioneer Valley, and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno for the official start of this year's program. The East Longmeadow High School chorale group sang holiday songs, while students from Warner Elementary School and the Montesori School of West Springfield were entertained by Hasbro characters Mr. Potato Head and Elefun.

The program will run through Dec. 17.

As in the past, Hasbro will be donating toys and games to needy children through the United Way.

But this year, residents of Springfield and the surrounding towns are also encouraged to bring nonperishable food items to the tree to support the Food Bank as it strives to supply nourishment to as many needy families as possible.

"This is our first year with the Food Bank and we feel the food drive is an important element of the project," Burtch said. "We know the struggles of the economy have put a strain on members of our community, so we want to help the efforts of the Food Bank as much as we can."

The economy's downturn and slow recovery has produced a greater need for assistance throughout Western Massachusetts and the Food Bank is struggling to keep up with the demand. The Food Bank serves "more than 106,000 people who rely on emergency food to get from day to day," according to Morehouse

"We've seen a 6 percent increase the number of times people are returning to the pantry or meal site and that's because they're running out of their income, their savings and they have nowhere else to turn to for that basic need," Morehouse said. "That's putting a strain on the emergency food system and our supplies."

Morehouse added that while donations during the holidays are much-needed, the need does not end with the turning of the new year and that along with the food drives and outreach, the Food Bank is looking for more concrete solutions to the issues surrounding hunger.

"Our short-term goal is to fight hunger by making food available, but our long-term goal is to work with the community to come up with solutions so that people don't have to go to pantries or meal sites for emergency food and that they don't have to go to a giving tree to get a toy for their kids," Morehouse said.

Hasbro will also continue its "Acts of Kindness" program, where children and adults are encouraged to write down anything they may have done to help someone in their community during the holiday season. Sarno and Burtch had three students read their acts of kindness before placing them on the tree to kick off the event.

"We at Hasbro are very much committed to helping young people in our community," Burtch said. "The acts of kindness are a way to encourage young people to do something nice for someone and we're hoping that the happiness and satisfaction that comes with that will carry over to when they're adults and help get them committed to helping the community."

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