Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Letter Carrier Food Drive; BMC at monthly Interfaith meeting

We're Giving Out More Food Than Ever

The line in green shows that April was our busiest month in more than three years operating the Friendship Center Food Pantry.

This past April had the most total household visits in our 3+ years as a food pantry: 815 total visits. We averaged 163 household visits per week; in April 2013 we averaged 139 visits per week.

As for the first week in May, we had 152 visits on Wednesday, May 7, a large number for the first week of the month. By comparison, last May we served 114 households in the first week of May.

So far I am aware of 5 or 6 people who lost their jobs when the hospital closed who have come to the pantry. Otherwise, I thnk the increase is due to reduction in food stamp (SNAP) benefits and in the cutoff of long-term unemployment insurance.

We brought in more than 5,000 lbs. of food this past Tuesday.

So the annual Letter Carrier Food Drive on Saturday, May 10, is very important. We get donations from North Adams, Clarksburg and Florida. These donations are split among the Friendship Center Food Pantry, the Berkshire Food Project, the Salvation Army and the Dream Center, all of whom do great work.

With the promotional help of Mass in Motion, last year we processed 15,500 lbs. of food donations in 2013, two tons more than in 2012.

This kept us going and saved us from having to pay much for food for a month. Please be generous.

Anyone interested and able to help in sorting the food collected in North Adams, Clarksburg and Florida should come down to 107 Main St. in North Adams (just west of the Mohawk Theater) between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This takes a lot of volunteer power and is a lot of fun. Call the Friendship Center at 413-664-0123 if you need more information. Or you can email me at

BMC at May 16th Interfaith meeting

Above, our pantry nurses, Cindy Croce and Barb Cariddi now both work for Berkshire Health Systems/Berkshire Medical Center, headquartered in Pittsfield. Below, NARH sign on Route 2 — sort of covered up.

In response to some complaints from North Adams people on their reception at Berkshire Medical Center, on Wednesday morning, April 30, Sean Jennings, MA VP Berkshire Medical Center Support Services addressed pantry members in the Eagle Street Room and answered questions about their concerns.

When I spoke to him afterward and mentioned that we have a monthly meeting, he immediately expressed interest and said he would try to have someone address us. He will be coming to our May 16 Interfaith meeting at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams, Eagle Street Room. He said he was trying to get member/s of the Senior Team at BMC to attend also.

We will begin with our customary period of introductions, announcements, silent prayer and faith sharing.

Later, on April 30, I sent an email to Mr. Jennings. Here is what I wrote to him in part, answering his question about what we should discuss:

“As for topic, I think the concerns that were passed Barb Cariddi from our pantry members about transportation and the attitude they encountered would be good. It would also be great to have an update to the extent possible about BMC's plans for north county and the NARH building.”

I added,

“I think many of us, myself included, are eager to find ways to partner with and encourage BHS and BMC in their efforts to fill in the void left by the bankruptcy of our health system. I personally had a [test] at the Crane Center on Friday, the first time I had been a patient at BMC, and was quite pleased with my care and the attitude of the people providing it.”

Back to now: The fact that I didn't have a problem doesn't mean that others from North County didn't have problems. In fact, my contact with non-medical personnel was minimal and limited to one person. And I HAD private transportation down to Pittsfield, which many people up here don't.

Anyway, I am looking forward to an enlightening and civil discussion, much as was had at the April meeting of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition on the hospital’s closing.

God Bless,