WESTFIELD-Staff and volunteers of the Westfield Food Pantry are gearing up for three projects this fall – including its largest yearly fundraiser – to ensure that neighbors in need will receive food assistance in the coming months.
“The Westfield Food Pantry provides nearly 1,200 people each month with nutritious groceries to supplement what they are able to get themselves,” said Rebecca Hart, director. “All donations to the Westfield Food Pantry stay at the Westfield Food Pantry.”
For walkers ready to “glow in the dark,” a fun, family friendly event titled “Fill the Pantry Glow Walk” is slated Oct. 19. The walk is the organization’s largest yearly fundraiser and will start with registration at 5 p.m. from St. John’s Lutheran Church, 60 Broad St. The walk begins at 6 p.m. and follows the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail and will be conducted rain or shine.
While the walk has been a tradition for years, the “glow” effect is a new feature. Glow sticks, swag bags and T-shirts (while supplies last) will be featured at the walk.
Area residents have several options to participate during the event, including a three-mile walk to Shaker Road and back, or to the tin bridge where a surprise awaits for those completing a one-mile walk. For persons unable to walk, an after-party is also planned at the church featuring a fire pit with hot dogs, music, doughnuts and refreshments.
Organizers are hopeful that groups of friends will consider participating, as well as teams from businesses and local organizations. A registration form is available on the Westfield Food Pantry’s website.
Hart also encourages parents to bring their children to walk or ride their tricycles or bicycles. A prize is planned for the best decorated bike.
“This is our largest fundraiser for the year and we need your help to make it a success,” said Hart. “Last year’s walk raised over $5,000 to feed the hungry here in Westfield. Help us raise even more this year so that we can meet the increasing local need.”
On Nov. 17, a public skate hosted by Amelia Park Arena on South Broad Street will benefit the food pantry’s ongoing needs to keep shelves stocked for the fast approaching holiday season.
“We are asking that everyone who attends the public skate to donate a canned food item for free admission from 1 to 2:20 p.m.,” said Hart. “The event is a great way to support the work of the pantry and to help get us through the Christmas breaks when the public school meal program is not available.”
Examples of food items always in demand include pasta, pasta sauce, canned fruits and vegetables, tuna, soups, rice, cereal, peanut butter, jelly, juice, coffee and tea. To ensure the health and dignity of those served by the food pantry, food donations should not be in badly dented cans, outdated cans, or open packages.
Hart noted that for the fourth year the Westfield Food Pantry is also working with the Westfield Public Schools to “adopt” homeless teens as well as teens in need during the holiday season. Hart anticipates collecting personal care items for 50 students between Westfield Technical Academy and Westfield High School.
“As part of our annual budget we purchase clothing, boots and laundry detergent for the teens,” said Hart, noting that because the Westfield Food Pantry experienced financial issues earlier this year, she is hoping that the public will consider donating personal care products including shampoo, conditioner, and deodorant that can be given to the teens at the same time as the distribution of these other items.
“We are also hoping that a business in the city might be willing to place a collection box for these personal care items which will allow city residents easier access to make donations,” said Hart.
Hart expects to distribute all of the items to the high schools around Dec. 15.
“We will have the Christmas list of ideas of what students are in need of before Black Friday,” said Hart, noting one year a bicycle was purchased so a student could ride to school as well as have access to a job.
Persons with questions on any of the events can contact Hart via email at [email protected].
The office, located at 101 Meadow St., is open Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. – noon, Thursday from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., and Friday from 10 a.m. – noon. Personal care items for teens can be dropped off during office hours.