To help families struggling with food insecurity, Newton Neighbors Helping Neighbors is holding a Thanksgiving card drive from Nov. 1 to Nov. 22. The initiative aims to provide families with $50 gift cards to local grocery stores, including Shaw’s, Star Market, Stop and Shop, and Market Basket.
One in eight families in Eastern Massachusetts suffer from food insecurity, Bruce Hugh Wilson, Newton Neighbors volunteer and Newton Project Takeout lead said.
“I mean think about what missing just one meal can do to us. It can throw off our entire day. Now think about these families who constantly worry about having to put food on the table,” Hugh Wilson said. “It’s not just one meal. It’s not just an inconvenience. It’s a daily struggle and a health issue. Food insecurity is a serious problem and Newton Neighbors wants to help address it on a local level.”
There are four ways in which people can get involved in donating to the Thanksgiving card drive.
One way is by purchasing a $50 grocery gift card, and then dropping it off at a drop-off location at 137 Annawan Rd., Waban; 51 Hyde St., Newton Highlands; 40 Sewall St., West Newton; or 22 Florence Ct., Newtonville.
People can also donate $50 to Newton Neighbors on its website, and Newton Neighbors will then purchase the gift card.
People can also visit OddFellows Ice Cream Co. at The Street Chestnut Hill or Let’s Glow Esthetics at Co. at 1163 Walnut St., Newton to drop off $50 grocery gift cards in a box at the registers.
The group set out to collect 150 gift cards, and Wilson said he is happy that they are already halfway to the goal.
Newton Neighbors will distribute the gift cards to families in Newton, Waltham, and Brockton on the week of Thanksgiving through its partner agencies The Second Step, Thom Charles River Early Intervention, and Brockton Workers Alliance to families in Newton, according to its website.
Each month Newton Neighbors gathers to find ways to help marginalized families in Newton and neighboring cities gain access to basic resources like clothing, school and home supplies, groceries, and more, Wilson said. He said it takes a whole community of people working toward one cause to help projects like these succeed.
“Local businesses have proven very generous in allowing Newton Neighbors to set up card drop-off boxes by their registers,” Wilson said.
Wilson said every volunteer is valuable in that they each bring different skill sets that help the Newton Neighbors’ achieve its goals. Wilson, along with the help of food photographer Carrie Strah Belcher, helped to create flyers with QR codes that link to the Newton Neighbors’ website to hand around the city, including at The Paper Mouse in West Newton and Artitudes in Newton.
“About four of us volunteers with Newton Neighbors have even set [gift card] drop-off boxes outside our homes,” Wilson said. “We’re just trying to make participating as easy and accessible as possible.”
Newton Neighbors is a relatively new organization, having launched in March 2020, according to the September 2021 Newton Neighbors’ write-up.
“I got involved with Newton Neighbors around COVID time and it’s impressive how much I’ve seen the community achieve in such a short time,” Wilson said. “Selfless, competent, caring, and upbeat are just some of the adjectives I’d use to describe the volunteers. Plus, we’ve become good friends with each other.”
Newton Neighbors has reached over 4,700 followers on Facebook. The group has organized various drives, food pantry deliveries, and other initiatives in the 18 months the organization has been around. For the group’s efforts, the West Suburban YMCA recognized it with the 2020 Community Partner Award, according to the write-up.
“I would encourage BC clubs, organizations, and students to get involved,” Wilson said. “There’s so much good to be done through places like the local food pantry. Every little bit helps.”
Correction (11/16/21, 10:39 p.m.) The article has been corrected to reflect that Clarke’s Cakes and Cookies is no longer serving as a drop off location for $50 grocery gift cards, and was replaced with the new drop off location Let’s Glow Esthetics.
Featured Image Courtesy of Bruce Hugh Wilson