SOUTHWICK – Although the annual Our Community Food Pantry fundraiser, hosted at Westfield River Brewing, was canceled this year due to COVID-19, brewery owner Sergio Bonavita made a donation to the pantry last week.
Bonavita presented Pantry President Bettylou Murphy and board members Deb Herath and Kathlyn Cook with a check for more than $1,000. Bonavita said the funds were from an event hosted at the brewery last April.
“I had this idea to do a community beer and reached out to other local breweries,” he said. Lisa Lefreniere, co-owner of Skyline Brewing Co. in Westfield, told Bonavita there was already a similar program called All Together.
“We decided to join All Together and they gave us labels and a recipe,” Bonavita said. He brewed the beer according to the recipe and a portion of every sale was set aside.
At the time, most participating breweries were donating to the hospitality industry or using it for themselves.
“It was pretty rough for a while,” he said. “We wanted to wait and see and if we didn’t do well, we were going to give the money to our staff.”
Luckily, Bonavita said, Westfield River Brewing’s loyal customers kept them afloat.
“Our customers were so supportive of us and we were okay,” he said. “So we decided to give the money to the food pantry, especially because they always have their fundraiser here and this year, they obviously can’t.”
Bonavita said he feels fortunate to have stayed in business throughout the pandemic. Even though nearly 30 weddings planned at the brewery were canceled, he was able to host small weddings in late spring and serve customers outside on the property at 707 College Highway, before being allowed to offer indoor dining. Bonavita said he has concerns about the coming months, but looks forward to continuing to serve food, beer and more to his customers and continue to help the food pantry.
“Hopefully we will be able to have the event next year, even if everyone is wearing a mask,” said Bonavita.
The donation will help the pantry continue serving families and individuals in Southwick, Tolland and Granville. The pantry has remained open throughout the pandemic, offering weekly packages of food for those in need. Anyone who could use food assistance can apply online at community-food-pantry.org.