5 area organizations getting nearly $150K in grants

  • The Salvation Army of Athol, at 107 Ridge Ave. in Athol, has been named the recipient of a $35,000 grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Kitchen, in partnership with the United Way of North Central Massachusetts. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern D-Worcester, center, talks with those gathered at the former Pleasant Street School in Athol on Friday afternoon for the announcement and celebration of $1.05 million in congressionally-directed spending for the building to be reused at a shared-use community kitchen and business incubator. LaunchSpace, which leases for the former school, also recently a $35,000 grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Kitchen, in partnership with the United Way of North Central Massachusetts. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Franklin County Community Meals Program collected 1,000 bagged lunches during their annual Brown Bag Brigade collection day in February. The program has been announced as the recipient of a $35,000 grant from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, in partnership with the United Way of North Central Massachusetts. FILE CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/29/2022 2:27:41 PM
Modified: 3/29/2022 2:26:45 PM

ATHOL — Five Franklin County and North Quabbin organizations are set to benefit from nearly $150,000 in grant funding from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, in partnership with the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.

It was announced earlier this month that the Franklin County Community Meals Program in Greenfield, LaunchSpace in Orange and the Salvation Army Athol Corps were named recipients of $35,000 each, while the Orange’s Quabbin Food Connector will get $22,500 and Seeds of Solidarity Education Center receives $20,600. The $148,100 in federal reimbursement grants, available through the CARES Act, are part of $543,600 going to 16 local organizations to combat food insecurity and support nutritional equity throughout the community. The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts is a non-profit public charity that manages charitable funds established by individuals, families, businesses and other nonprofit organizations.

Rachel Berggren, executive director of the Franklin County Community Meals Program, said the $35,000 will go toward purchasing refrigerating equipment to increase the organization’s storage capacity and toward renting, staffing and electricity its sites in Orange and Greenfield. The organization recently purchased a van for mobile outreach services and Berggren said some money will be used for the vehicle’s maintenance and insurance.

“This grant is a huge lifesaver,” she said. “Funds like this are essential in making us feel supported.”

Berggren said the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the problem the meals program tries to address.

Brianna Drohen, co-founder and CEO of LaunchSpace, said the $35,000 will be used to purchase equipment to help start a shared-use commercial kitchen and event space in the former Pleasant Street School in Athol.

“Our goal is ... to be able to provide the underserved community with weekly meals for pick-up or delivery,” she said, adding that LaunchSpace expects to open the kitchen in the fall.

Drohen said the money will also go toward hiring someone to help with program development.

LaunchSpace, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, member-based makerspace located in the Orange Innovation Center, held a get-together on Friday to celebrate nearly $1.05 million in congressional funding to bring to fruition the kitchen and event space that will provide the community with access to a certified kitchen for food processing and production, food service workforce development programs and food access for underserved residents. The 24,000-square-foot facility is also expected to house child care, a classroom for business resource education, small business incubation suites, and small-scale agriculture. U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, was in attendance Friday.

The Salvation Army of Athol, at 107 Ridge Ave., will designate the $35,000 to subsidize the fuel and upkeep of vehicles to be used to deliver hot homemade meals. Corps Commanding Officer Esther Wilson said the program has not started yet but two people will be hired to help with the delivery process. She said the plan is to provide food on Tuesday evenings and by appointment, and the frequency might increase when “we get a rhythm going.” Wilson said the Salvation Army is incredibly thankful to be a grant recipient.

“I felt so blessed that we were entrusted with this grant, (so) that we can do all that we can do to help feed the people that need to be fed in this region,” she said. “It was definitely a gift.”

Pat Larson, a board member of Quabbin Food Connector, said the $22,500 reimbursement grant will be used in partnership with the Quabbin Harvest Food Co-op, Valuing Our Children, and other local organizations. The first module of this program will begin in April in partnership with Valuing Our Children, which provides primary prevention of child abuse through family support, parenting education, and community development. Between April and June, 2022, some eligible households in Orange and Athol will receive “protein bundles” with meat and other items along with recipes and cooking tips put together by Quabbin Harvest.

“At this point planning for this program is happening. At this point, it is planned that the first bundle will contain chicken from Diemand Farm in Wendell and eggs from Fallen Oak Farm in Wendell along with other food items,” Larson said in an emailed statement. “This program will happen for a year and provide protein bundles for eligible households in the North Quabbin area over the course of a year with some breaks for evaluation and outreach pertaining to this project that works on issues related to food insecurity and food justice where a local/regional food system works for all eaters.”

Deb Habib, executive director of Seeds of Solidarity, said the $20,600 will enable her organization to launch Solidarity Farmshares, a new program providing farm-fresh food to low-income families, as well as gardening activities and recipes.

“We appreciate the efforts of colleagues and funders in north-central Massachusetts to reach out to the North Quabbin region through this CARES Act funding,” she said in an emailed statement.

Seeds of Solidarity is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that encourages and teaches people to “grow food everywhere.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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