Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Televised discussion of Friendship Center Food Pantry

Mark Lincourt, center, next to pole with papers in hand, moderates "'In the Company of Friends' — The Friendship Center Food Pantry" during our taping at the March 16 NBIAI meeting. Below, Corinne Case did great work with the camera recording the conversation.

The program “‘In the Company of Friends’ — The Friendship Center Food Pantry” will be shown on Northern Berkshire Community Television Corp. Channel 15 on Saturday, March 24, at 5:30 p.m. and again on Wednesday, March 28, at 1:30 p.m.

Members of the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative (NBIAI) filmed the program at the Friday, March 16, meeting of the Initiative. The intent of the program is to inform the community about what the volunteers of the Friendship Center do, who they serve, and how members of the public can help the pantry continue to be effective.

The 46-minute program consists of a discussion among Friendship Center volunteers about their experiences at the pantry, which opened at 43 Eagle St. in February, 2011. Food Distribution Coordinator Mark Lincourt moderates the discussion, which was taped by NBIAI Steering Committee member and Friendship Center volunteer Corinne Zinni Case.
Lincourt and Friendship Center/NBIAI Co-organizer Mark Rondeau produced the program with much help from Paul Marino of NBCTC.

The discussion explores the who, what, where, why, when and how of the Friendship Center, with particular emphasis on how volunteers strive to treat all visiting friends with respect and affection and on the need for community financial support if the pantry is to continue.

The program will air on the same days and at the same times for several weeks.

The April 20 meeting of the NBIAI — which will not be taped for broadcast — will feature a discussion with the Rev. Bert Marshall about reviving the CROP Walk against hunger in Northern Berkshire.

The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams (use Eagle Street entrance). All are welcome.
The NBIAI is a group of people of various faiths and denominations working together with others of good will to find ways to serve our community. In addition to the food pantry, the Initiative runs an emergency voucher systems and its monthly meetings focus on various topics of community interest. 

For more about the NBIAI and the Friendship Center, visit our Facebook page, our blog at
http://www.northernberkshireinterfaith.blogspot.com or call Mark Rondeau at 664-0130. The Friendship Center Food Pantry is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Wednesday. Phone: 664-0123.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

More help from our friends

Danielle and Jackie collected personal care items outside Stop and Shop in North Adams on Saturday, March 10, for the UNITY Youth Leadership Program’s drive for hygiene products for local groups that serve those in need, including the Friendship Center.

In this post: Two important drives; Seeking financial help from our friends; Upcoming meeting topics; An opening prayer

Two important drives

As the photos above and the one below this post attest, the Friendship Center continues to benefit from the generosity of local groups who conduct drives for us and the people who contribute to them. We appreciate that as one of its current projects, the Youth Leadership Program has been collecting these much-needed personal care items in a month-long drive.

When I stopped by on Saturday, they had already collected a large number of items donated by shoppers that day.

Similarly, we wish to thank North Adams Commons for conducting a food drive for us again this year. Several of us fanned out on Friday, March 9, and collected what amounted to a total of 620 pounds of food collected from Big Y, the city clerk’s office and banks in North Adams.

The group of Friendship Center volunteers and Maureen Gaudreau of Friday March 9, after we finished collecting food raised in the North Adams Commons drive — 620 lbs. in all. Pictured are Mark Rondeau, Al Nelson, Maureen Gaudreau, Mark Lincourt, Tony Pisano and Rich Davis.

Seeking financial help from our friends

As some know, the Friendship Center Food Pantry lost its financial support from the Berkshire Community Action Council in February. This has happend while we are seeing ever-increasing need. The Friendship Center adds new members every week and we are now well over 800 member households in North Adams, Clarksburg and Florida, each eligible for food every other week.

While between last July and Jan. 1, 2012, we averaged about 90 households per week, since Jan. 1 we have been averaging 110 households per week.

The Friday, March 16, meeting of the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative will feature a presentation on food security and what the Friendship Center does and how it does it led by Mark Lincourt, food distribution coordinator.

This will be an educational meeting about hunger in the Northern Berkshires and why the Friendship Center Food Pantry needs to start fundraising if it is going to continue operating and have an ample supply of food and other goods for our visiting friends. 

The meeting, which will be held at the First Baptist Church of North Adams and begin at 10 a.m., will include a discussion of the Friendship Center by volunteers, friends, and supporters. We plan to film this presentation and discussion for broadcast on local cable television at a later date. 

The Friendship Center Fundraising Committee, composed of Friendship Center volunteers, will launch the first phase of a public fundraising campaign in late April. The committee is also aggressively seeking grant funding. 

Anyone wishing to make a tax-deductible donation to the Food Pantry may make a check out to The Friendship Center Food Pantry and send it to The Friendship Center, 43 Eagle Street, North Adams, MA 01247. 

The Friendship Center Food Pantry, which observed one year of operation in mid-February, is a program of the NBIAI, a group of people of various faiths who with others of goodwill are seeing ways to serve our community. All are welcome to our monthly meetings, which begin with a moment of silence and include a time of faith sharing. 

Upcoming meeting topics

The Feb. 17 NBIAI meeting focused on both the Food Pantry and the future of the Initiative. 20 people attended. Our lively discussion ranged from the NBIAI’s ministry voucher system, to the availability of insidious new products meant to hook teens on tobacco, to local faith communities seeking ways to assist in emergency preparedness. We also discussed possible future initiatives in conjunction with other groups to work for home-grown, grassroots economic development and for increased advocacy in Boston and Washington, D.C. 

Upcoming Initiative meeting topics will include: April, revival of the CROP Walk against hunger, featuring guest Rev. Bert Marshall; May, tentative, the student leader of a volunteer trip to Morocco will speak about Interfaith work among Muslims; June, the infiltration locally of insidious products meant to hook young people on tobacco.

An opening prayer

Our volunteer coordinator, Denise Krutiak, offered the following great prayer before we opened the pantry this past Wednesday morning. (We always open with a prayer). She wrote out a copy of her prayer for me when I asked if I could post it here.

Gracious God,

Your spirit fills us. We give you thanks and praise for the way you love us and move in us.

God of light and love, help us to plant seeds in your name. Help us to live our lives so that wherever we go and whatever we do, we carry your light in our hearts so others can see your love.

Help us not to be discouraged when seeds take a long time to grow. Help us to renew and be renewed in your light and your strength. 


Amen and God Bless,