|By Lori O' Brien|
SPRINGFIELD The city's annual PantryWalk to benefit Open Pantry's programs is slated May 7 at Riverfront Park.
The annual event is a great opportunity to support and show concern for people who are homeless, hungry and disadvantaged in the community, according to Dena Calvanese, Development Director, Open Pantry.
"One of the nice things about this walk is it offers a choice of different distances so people of all abilities can walk," said Calvanese during an interview with Reminder Publications.
Registration begins at 12:30 p.m., followed by the walk at 1 p.m. Riverfront Park is located on West Columbus Avenue. Refreshments, including fresh fruit and drinks, will be served at the midway parts of the route and at the end.
The southbound route of the Riverfront Trail is just over one mile round trip, while the northbound part of the trail is approximately three miles round trip.
"People can pick either direction or walk both parts," said Calvanese. "The trail is mostly flat and shaded."
Last year 120 walkers raised just over $12,000 and Calvanese said a goal of $15,000 and approximately 140 walkers has been set for this year.
Open Pantry is a private nonprofit social service agency, which assists people in the greater Springfield area. Open Pantry has provided services for more than 30 years and currently operates the Loaves & Fishes Kitchen, Emergency Food Pantry, Holiday Meals, Open Door Social Services, Jefferson Avenue Shelter, Teen Living Program, Rutledge House, Tranquility House and the Warming Place.
In 2005, Open Pantry assisted more than 13,600 individuals and provided 160,000 units of service, ranging from meals, bags of groceries and shelter trays to case management sessions, according to Calvanese.
"Community involvement plays a crucial role in Open Pantry's ability to care for our neighbors in need," she said. "Without the involvement of community groups and individuals, Open Pantry would not be able to provide nearly 100,000 meals at our Loaves & Fishes Kitchen or distribute enough groceries to feed more than 25,300 people at our Emergency Food Pantry."
Calvanese added that while Open Pantry does receive government funding, those resources are limited and it is the generosity and kindness of the community that keeps the organization going.
Major sponsors of the event are UPS, Noonan Energy, John Griggs, M.D., and the Student Prince. In addition, 22 local organizations are also providing assistance in a variety of ways.
Every walker who turns in pledges will receive a T-shirt and the walker who turns in the highest amount of pledges the day of the walk will receive a free party for up to 30 people at Goodfellaz Grill & Brew in Feeding Hills.
For more information on the PantryWalk, visit www.openpantry.org to download a pledge sheet or call Calvanese at (413) 737-5355. For persons unable to attend the walk but who would like to make a donation, contributions can be mailed to Open Pantry, Attn: PantryWalk, P.O. Box 5127, Springfield, MA 01101-5127.