| Carolyn Noel
SPRINGFIELD – The Gray House, a nonprofit human service agency in the North End of Springfield, is seeking turkey and nonperishable food donations to help feed those in need this Thanksgiving. The annual food drive has even more need than usual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Gray House’s Executive Director Kristen McClintock.
“We have just seen a huge surge in the number of people who need help. We have so many new faces that are coming, they’ve never needed community service or assistance before and they’ve been out of work since April. They don’t know what to do. They’ve drained their savings, they need help,” she told Reminder Publishing.
The North End of Springfield is one of the poorest communities in the entire state, according to McClintock. Its poverty rate is almost 50 percent.
In 2019, The Gray House distributed 712 turkeys to families. This year, they expect the need to be vastly greater and they can only meet this need through donations.
“It doesn’t have to be 100 donations. If someone says ‘I’m going to drop off one turkey at The Gray House,’ that makes a big difference to a family,” said McClintock.
Frozen turkeys are The Gray House’s highest need, but they are also accepting non-perishable food items such as stuffing, canned vegetables, pie crusts, pie filling, gravy, and more. Donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. now through Nov. 20 at The Gray House, 22 Sheldon St., Springfield.
Should a reader be looking to schedule a donation outside of this time they are encouraged to call 734-6696 extension 3 to let them know. Large group donations are also encouraged to call ahead and speak to Ben Holt, food pantry director, so that The Gray House can make sure they have ample volunteers to help get it from cars into the building.
The Gray House is also accepting monetary donations for those who would prefer to contribute financially. Monetary donations give The Gray House the flexibility to purchase what isn’t donated and make sure that everyone has a full Thanksgiving meal, according to McClintock. If a reader would like to donate money to The Gray House, they are able to send a check to the 22 Sheldon St. address or donate online at http://grayhouse.org/donate/. If donating by check, The Gray House will send out a thank you and tax receipt once received.
If a reader or someone they know needs help from The Gray House this holiday season, they have changed their requirements for eligibility due to the pandemic.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for people this year,” said McClintock.
The Gray House has reduced the eligible household size requirement. This year, households will only need to show that at least two people live together, in addition to proof of financial need. Documents, such as ID, will need to be provided, but the ID doesn’t have to be a photo ID. A school ID, work ID, or Mass Health card will work as well.
Oct. 30 was the first day of household registration for the turkey donation and McClintock said one recipient waited in the snowy, cold for over an hour to make sure her family could receive a meal.
“That breaks your heart. The need is so great and people are willing to wait out in the cold for an hour and a half to make sure that their family gets a turkey this Thanksgiving,” said McClintock.
The next registration dates for eligible households are Nov. 4 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Nov. 13 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at The Gray House. Food will then be distributed to registered households on Nov. 23 and 24. For more information on eligibility and requirements you can visit grayhouse.org/thanksgiving.
Looking ahead, The Gray House is already preparing for the Christmas season. The Gray House will be having a Christmas Drive for area children of low income families. McClintock recognizes that not everyone will want to go out and shop at stores this year, which is why The Gray House will have an Amazon wishlist for people to purchase gifts at directly.
On Amazon, locals can purchase a gift for a child and ship it directly to The Gray House or the gift can be shipped to the buyers home and then can be personally delivered to The Gray House in December. More information about this drive will be available in the coming weeks.
“The need at Christmas is going to be just as great, if not greater, as of any year past,” said McClintock.
For now, with Thanksgiving just weeks away, The Gray House is focusing their efforts on the turkey drive and hoping to receive as many donations as they can.
“It’s really special what we do and what we’re able to do and we want to be able to help as many people as possible this year,” McClintock told Reminder Publishing.