| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – The new director of Open Pantry Community Services (OPCS) told Reminder Publications the need is growing for the services the organization provides and part of the growing demand is fueled by the opioid crisis.
Matthew CastleMan has been a regional director of OPCS for the past two years and was recently promoted to director.
Although OPCS is best known for its emergency food pantry, the organization also operates the Loaves and Fishes Kitchen meal program at Christ Church Cathedral, the South Congregational Church and the Shiloh Seventh Day Adventist Church, along with the holiday meals program at the High School of Commerce. The organization also runs the People’s Center, offering low cost clothing and household items, as well as a Teen Living programs for young mothers, and the Rutledge and Tranquility house for women in recovery.
CastleMan said the organization has 200 units of housing for the homeless as well.
CastleMan has 10 years experience working in social services and said, “My goal now as OPCS director is to get into the community more and talk about all our services, so that more people within our service area understand what we do. It’s important to engage the community so that they feel empowered and believe that they have a stake in the work we do to better the lives of all who live here.”
The South Hadley resident is no stranger to Springfield. He worked as a deputy sheriff in Hampden County, a vocational coordinator at Community Enterprises in Springfield where he provided individual vocational and prevocational counseling to residents there. He later served as resident services program director at Colonial Estates in Springfield, where he developed therapeutic programming for a community of 500 families.
He said there has been a spike in demand for services in the last six to seven months with the appearance of new clients seeking help.
The social program serves between 1,500 to 2,000 clients and CastleMan said, “The biggest requirement from the people we serve is more access.”
For greater capacity of service, OPCS has to raise more funds, he added. Although a division of the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC), CastleMan said SMOC does not fund OPCS. All of the funding OPCS does raise stays in Western Massachusetts, he added.
“We’re looking at events to attract younger crowds, different crowds of people,” CastleMan said.
SMOC only serves as a funding support in case of an emergency, CastleMan explained.
He said the opioid crisis is contributing to the homelessness problem and “is increasing the numbers across the board for everything we are doing.”
“We feel very fortunate to have a person of Matt’s background, temperament and experience as the new director of Open Pantry,” SMOC’s executive director James T. Cuddy said. “In the past two years as regional director of several Open Pantry programs, Matt proved himself to be an intelligent and compassionate leader who understands the dynamics of the job and is quick to confront any problem with a workable solution. He sees great opportunity for this organization and we’re looking forward to seeing those ideas come to life.”