|By G. Michael Dobbs
Volunteers for the Open Pantry check in donations at this year’s Mayflower Marathon.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – It was a record year for the Mayflower Marathon and, according to Alison Maynard, the executive director of the Open Pantry, the timing couldn’t have been better.
That’s because the demand for the services of the emergency food pantry that serves greater Springfield has been growing.
This year the efforts made by Rock 102’s John O’Brien and Mike Baxendale, with support from Steve Nagle, yielded more than $110,000 in food and cash donations. It was a new record for the event that has been presented for at least 20 years.
For two and half days, the highly rated radio team urged people to come by with donations for the Open Pantry.
“If not for the Mayflower Marathon, we couldn’t keep up with the demand,” Maynard said.
Last year the campaign resulted in about $130,000 in donations.
During the last hour of the event on Nov. 27, people poured into the donation area set up in the parking lot of Basketball Hall of Fame, bringing bags and boxes of non-perishable food. Volunteers scanned each item to assess a value.
People also came in with checks or cash. State Sen. James Welch, Springfield City Council President James Ferrera II and Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni were among the elected officials who made a donation a donation at that time.
Maynard said a major reason for the increase this year in donations was the gift of $25,000 from an anonymous donor.
She said that with the cuts in the federal SNAP program more people are seeking assistance. Maynard noted that when she started in 2009, the Open Pantry served 28,000 families. Now, 39,000 families use its services.
Springfield, she said, has a poverty rate of about 25 percent.
Unlike other emergency food pantries, the Open Pantry relies far less on food supplied by the state or federal governments and much more on donated items, Maynard explained. This approach allows them to serve more people, she added.
To learn more about the Open Pantry or to make a donation go to www.openpantry.org.
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