Thursday, April 24, 2008

Springfield's Open Pantry needs help now

To be blunt: Open Pantry Community Services is in trouble and may not be able to avoid deep cuts in essential services. It's not hopeless but it's pretty bad, and what's bad for the Open Pantry is bad for the poor and homeless people in this city.

Last year the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen prepared over a hundred thousand meals for people in need of food and friendship, lunch and supper, seven days a week. When staff and guests were discussing which of the two meals should be cut if it came to that, the answer was the lunch meal-- because a lot of children eat supper there with their parents.

Last year the Open Pantry provided groceries for more than 27,000 people, half of them children. Now the pantry may have to cut back days they're open from four to two.

Last year 1,200 homeless people went to caseworkers at the Open Door with help ranging from getting I.D. and applying for veteran's benefits to looking for an apartment.

Last year the Commonwealth of Massachusetts cut more than 400,000 from OPCS's budget after its Warming Place shelter for single homeless was forced to close. Three area legislators have introduced amendments restoring that funding, but success is far from automatic.

If you're in the district of
Rep. Puppolo - amendment # 304 Tel. (413) 596-4333/(617) 722-2011
Rep. Swan - amendment # 936 Tel. (413) 739-8547/(617) 722-2680
Rep. Coakley-Rivera - amendment # 1034 Tel. (413) 739-1503/(617) 722-2011
Call them and thank them for sponsoring these amendments.

If you live anywhere in Massachusetts, call your legislator! Ask them to sign on to these amendments and to vote for them if/when they get to the floor. Calls to members of the the House Ways and Means Committee will help, also. The main number for the State Representatives is: (617-722-2000) or you can follow this link: for a complete list of State Representatives with their contact information.

I try to picture Springfield without the Open Pantry and it's a pretty grim picture. Don't let it happen.

PS-- Forgot to say, money is totally welcome! You can send a contribution to Open Pantry Community Services, P.O. Box 5127, Springfield, MA 01101-5127.

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