AOTV team revs up as Food-a-thon central

  • Nancy Graton, executive director of Good Neighbors food pantry, serving residents of Wendell and New Salem, holds a sign for the 16th annual Food-A-Thon on May 21 at planning committee meeting for the event. Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

  • AOTV Production Manager Shane Brown readies the set for Food-A-Thon day, where people will stop by to donate food items and money. Staff photo/kathy Chaisson

Staff Writer
Published: 5/17/2019 10:00:34 PM
Modified: 5/17/2019 10:00:21 PM

ATHOL — Since January, the meeting room at AOTV has been planning headquarters to fine-tune everything from scheduling and delivery sites to signage and volunteer coordination for the 16th annual North Quabbin Food-A-Thon set for Tuesday, May 21, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Food-A-Thon raises funds and collects food for five local food pantries and feeding programs.

Also behind the scenes making audio checks and other preparations is the production team of AOTV Channel 1301, which does a live stream of the event throughout the day from different locations.

The Food-A-Thon day starts at 4:30 a.m. for AOTV Production Manager Shane Brown, who will have five or six technical staff, audio switchers, interns and other volunteers, each positioned at an assigned place during the production. Brown, who has extensive experience in other productions, said he finds it “astounding” how the local towns and volunteers come together to help out for the event.

In the field, there will be five active cameras set up with live feeds using recently upgraded equipment, with two placed at the Orange intersection and two “roaming” to capture moments like the red wagon parade of elementary schools delivering food to the collection site.

There will also be a live broadcast on radio station WVAO 105.9.

Andrea Leibson, Executive Director of the Franklin County Community Meals Program who attended the planning meeting on Tuesday, and Lt. Melissa Lowell from the Athol Salvation Army will appear on the WWLP Channel 22 program Mass Appeal sometime between 11 a.m. and noon on Monday, May 20, to represent the Food-a-Thon.

According to Leibson, 7.8 percent of the population in Orange is living below the federal poverty line ($25,100 for a family of four); the median income in Orange for a family of four is $44,128. Since more than 50 percent of the children in the public schools are eligible for free school lunches (living in families with income less than or equal to $46,435 for a family of four), all the students in the public schools receive free lunch and breakfast, she said.

Throughout the Food-A-Thon, Planning Committee Chairman Jay Deane and other hosts appear in a live broadcast at AOTV at 163 South Main St., Athol to greet and chat with people who are stopping by to deliver items for the cause. Deane said it gives him a good feeling to see the food and donations brought to the studio, especially when some who are struggling financially themselves, “give so much when they don’t have that much to give.” Some donate anonymously. He said when people stop by, “they have good things to say.”

The first year of the Food-a-Thon collected $13,000. In the past 15 years, nearly $415,000 has been brought in by the event. More than 11,000 non-perishable food items were collected in 2018.

“Whether it’s from a business, people bringing in a check for $10 or $25 or dropping donations in a bucket,” Deane said, “we so much appreciate anything.”

He and others have said that they would love to see an end to the Food-A-Thon because it would mean that no one is going hungry.

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