FLORENCE — Florence Bank donated nearly $100,000 in 2020 to support a new food-distribution collaborative and nine other longtime nonprofits with a mission to feed people who are battling food insecurity in the Pioneer Valley.
The gifts have been made since March to organizations in all corners of the region, including the hilltowns, to help ease the economic strain brought on by COVID-19.
“We are so grateful. Without the support of donors, we would not have been able to continue our mission,” said Ruben Reyes, executive director of Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen & Pantry in Chicopee, one of the recipients of bank funds. “COVID has affected us very hard. All of our fundraisers were canceled, and we were very worried about how to fund our programs.”
Compounding the problem, COVID-19 has also affected Lorraine’s clientele. Reyes said he is seeing an additional 200 to 300 families each month, and provides a month’s supply of groceries and dinners five nights a week to a total of 600 to 700 families. “We’re seeing a lot more families who typically would not need pantry services. They are coming to our doors for the very first time.”
In the spring, Florence Bank donated $50,000 to the Community Food Distribution Project created jointly by the Northampton Survival Center and Grow Food Northampton to help fund emergency food distribution in the early months of the pandemic.
The new collaborative makes food staples available through on-site distributions at nearly a dozen local sites. Northampton Survival Center and Grow Food Northampton established the organization in partnership with Community Action Pioneer Valley, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the city of Northampton, and Northampton Public Schools. Grow Food Northampton and the Northampton Survival Center each received $25,000 from the bank.
Since May, Florence Bank has also made the following gifts to these local nonprofits: Easthampton Community Center, $7,500; Easthampton Congregational Church, $2,500; Open Pantry Community Services Inc. of Springfield, $1,000; Chesterfield Community Cupboard, $5,000; Amherst Survival Center, $10,000; the Gray House Market of Springfield, $5,000; the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, as part of Monte’s March, $1,000; Springfield Rescue Mission, $10,000; and Lorraine’s, which received $1,000.
Florence Bank also nominated Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen to receive a $5,000 award from the Massachusetts Bankers Assoc. Charitable Foundation, which the nonprofit has accepted.
“Florence Bank cares about its community, and in these unprecedented times, there’s nothing more important than helping our neighbors,” President Kevin Day said. “The pandemic has heightened food insecurity and has prompted many people who never before needed assistance to reach out for help.
“Florence Bank was founded on the idea of neighbors helping neighbors,” he added. “What better way to display that principle than to contribute to the organizations that are meeting the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors?”