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January 18, 2021
 
Pandemic Forces Father Bill’s & MainSpring to Alter Turkey Plan
Father Bills & MainSpring

November 30, 2020 — Father Bill’s & MainSpring, a Brockton-based nonprofit that works to end homelessness in southern Massachusetts, last week continued its 30-year tradition of providing turkey dinners to people in need, but, bowing to the coronavirus pandemic, changed the way it did it.

Though Father Bill’s & MainSpring (FBMS) couldn’t hold traditional in-person community meals this year due to COVID-19, the agency’s network of supporters stepped up to ensure that everybody in need could receive a Thanksgiving dinner that included turkey, several side dishes, and pie.

FBMS provided 1,000 meals last Thursday, 30% more than last year, reflecting greater needs spawned by the continuing health and economic crises.

Historically, FBMS accepted donations of turkeys and ingredients and relied on volunteers and staff to prepare the meals. Although local groups were willing to donate turkeys and all the fixings, the COVID-19 crisis meant the organization could not host on-site kitchen activities to cook donated food and assemble it for distribution, leading it to buy the meals from a caterer.

FBMS raised $35,000 to support the undertaking, and spent $25,000 for catered meals, storage/refrigeration, and other operational expenses. Remaining funds will support ongoing operations.

The agency secured individually packaged meals from Hardy Catering in West Bridgewater and expanded its meal-delivery program, setting a record for the most meals FBMS has ever provided in a single day.

Developing an in-person meal for shelter guests and a delivery program needed to include all of the proper COVID protocols, FBMS said. At shelters, this meant having extra FBMS staff available to help, as health protocols preclude volunteers and other visitors from entering FBMS properties.

Following social distancing guidelines also meant staggering meals. FBMS set up a meal-delivery hub at Christ Episcopal Church in Quincy, supported by 60 volunteers, and limited the number of volunteers arriving at the same time. At housing authority and other sites properties, that meant planning in advance, designating safe outdoor drop-off locations.

This year, FBMS delivered 450 meals to homes, using a contactless delivery program, up 50% from last year. The remaining total 550 meals it provided last Thursday at various sites was also up 150 from a year ago.

“When we started planning for this year’s Thanksgiving program back in the summer, it was never a question of if; it was a question of how,” John Yazwinski, FBMS president & CEO, said. “Thanks to our amazing community, we were able to overcome all of the logistical and financial challenges created by COVID-19 to make sure nobody struggling on Thanksgiving went hungry.

“Many of our neighbors in need are elderly or are immunocompromised, so we are incredibly grateful to our donors and volunteers for helping provide every individual with safe and socially distanced access to a Thanksgiving dinner.”

Supporting FBMS’s Thanksgiving program this year were Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association, the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, Duff & Phelps – Boston, and SK & Associates, among others. Easton Knights of Columbus, Council #238 donated 118 full-size pies to FBMS in partnership with Montilio’s Baking Company and Roche Bros. Supermarkets. In addition, Table Talk Pies of Worcester, donated 720 individually packaged 4-inch pies.

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