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Schools’ Thanksgiving Food Drive is on, with changes

Sue and Ralph Figy are organizing the Westfield Public Schools Thanksgiving Food Drive for the seventh year. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

WESTFIELD – This year’s Thanksgiving Food Drive for families at Westfield Public Schools will be a lot different because of COVID, said Sue and Ralph Figy, who have been organizing the drive for the past seven years at the urging of Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski.

“We all have to adapt and make things work. This year is our biggest challenge ever,” Sue Figy said.

Instead of hosting a public canned food drive, for example, they have gone to area businesses and individuals to ask them to sponsor parts of the meal. For example, the green bean casseroles are being sponsored by Elm Electric.

Sue Figy said her goal is to get to 200 meals, although she said she will most likely go higher, because the need is so great this year. Each school gives them the names and sizes of the families who will receive the meals.

“I started about a month ago reaching out to everybody for help. Nobody has said no to me. I’m really happy with that,” she said.

Among the contributions they have received to date is an anonymous donor who gave them 100 turkeys for the second year in a row. “Truly a blessing,” she said.

Figy said Councilors James Adams of Firtion-Adams Funeral Home, John J. Beltrandi, III, Dave Flaherty and Cindy Harris also donated multiple turkeys.

The Westfield Bank, Polish National Credit Union, Westfield Gas & Electric, and Elm Electric provided the cloth bags that the meals will be packed in according to family size for distribution. G&E commissioners also donated turkeys.

The Westfield Food Pantry, with whom they are coordinating, gave them potatoes for the meals. Figy said any leftover ingredients from the school drive will be donated to the Westfield Food Pantry.

Coldwell-Banker Realty is sponsoring the corn, and Kathy Burns, Real Living Real Estate, is taking on the cranberry sauce. William and Susan Phelon donated the squash, along with an anonymous farmer who delivered a truckload.

The Figy family — Ralph, Sue, Lauren and Sean – provided the stuffing and gravy, and the Westfield Police Association is sponsoring brownies for dessert. They also had a huge donation of cereal from Lorena Dondley, “So everyone will get cereal. She does it every year for us,” Sue Figy said.

Advance Manufacturing, the Westfield Education Association and Kathy Wallis-McCann and James McCann donated financially. “We did pretty well there,” Sue Figy said, adding if any other business would like to be part of the meal, they may contact Ralph Figy at 413-883-2537 “We would love to have them,” she said.

There are still ways for the public to support the effort. They still need turkeys, and while they can’t have people dropping off turkeys this year, they can sponsor them at North Elm Butcher Block for $25 a turkey, by Nov. 18. North Elm Butcher Block, which is also a donor to the drive, will then order and deliver them to the Westfield Technical Academy. “It makes it very easy,” Sue Figy said.

Figy said another way the public can support the Thanksgiving Food Drive is to purchase gift cards in small increments of $10 or $25 from Stop & Shop, Price Rite or Big Y, which may be dropped off or mailed to the WTA Office at 33 Smith Avenue, or to the Central Office in the Westwood Building at 94 North Elm St. “Sometimes we have the ability to give somebody the dry goods but not the protein,” she said.

“This year, I’m finding that kids I’m talking with who last year were doing okay, are not doing okay this year,” Sue Figy said. She said she received a call from the Westfield Education Association, saying if she knows somebody in need, to let them know. “They (WEA) made a huge donation this year. They’ve also helped families since the pandemic started,” she said.

The Figys said they can’t rely on student volunteers this year as they have in the past, in order to minimize contact and to not take students out of class. Instead, they are organizing a group to put together all the meals at WTA, which they will then deliver to the individual schools on Monday, Nov 20. The schools will then make arrangements with the families for meal pick-ups or delivery.

“I’m very grateful for all of the organizations and people that have donated,” Sue Figy said.

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