AUBURN, Mass. - Auburn Youth and Family Services has the difficult task of feeding nearly 200 families this Thanksgiving. According to Executive Director of AYFS Sally D'Arcangelo, approximately 50 additional families applied for a Thanksgiving Basket compared to last year.
Each Thanksgiving and Christmas Basket feeds a family of four to six and includes a turkey or ham, stuffing, canned fruit, vegetables, white potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, fresh baked pie or dessert, one gallon of milk, butter, dozen eggs, rolls, loaf of bread, pasta, peanut butter, jelly, crackers and cookies.
The basket also includes non-traditional items including cereal, juice, peanut butter, jelly, crackers, cookies and additional healthy snacks to sustain children throughout the holiday vacation.
"We typically try to make it last longer because kids are home from school," D'Arcangelo said. Thanksgiving Baskets are arranged and distributed by AYFS Staff and community volunteers including high school students, interns and families. Students from the AYFS Afterschool Program also lend a helping hand by decorating boxes and cards.
"It's a big task," D'Arcangelo said.
"We're really lucky, the generosity of the community provides a lot for us."
The AYFS, through MEFAP and a partnership with Worcester County Food Bank also operates a food pantry and food distribution program year-round. The mission of the food program is to help alleviate hunger for Auburn's children and families, and to educate families about the importance of good nutrition.
The food pantry currently operates weekly on Tuesday from 9:30 to 2:30 p.m. and emergency disbursements are made on an as-needed basis. Several programs help to keep the pantry stocked including Auburn's Walk for Hunger, Macy's 'Bag Hunger', U.S. Postal Worker Food Drive, Auburn Middle School's 'Food from the Heart' and a $1,000 grant from Project Bread as well as numerous contributions from individuals and organizations in town.
"Every week when we run the food pantry two or three new families come in or someone refers families over to here. It's not just people with young families, it's adults living on fixed incomes and of course the elderly population," D'Arcangelo said.
According to D'Arcangelo, this year has been especially difficult for Auburn families and residents.
"I think your middle class families that were donors before, their jobs have been downsized, or one of them may have lost a job. I just don't think that the economy is that much brighter. I don't get that indication here," she said.
According to AYFS, pantry items in high demand during the holiday season include cereal, juice boxes, peanut butter, pudding, cereal bars, healthy canned soup, Parmalat milk, laundry detergent, low salt food items, baby food and formula.
"We are here to do whatever we can to support and strengthen families and people in Auburn," D'Arcangelo said.
The organization also organizes a Holiday and Gift Program to provide gifts and food baskets for families. Many community businesses, organization and individuals help with funds and donations for this program. Last year, AYFS provided 147 families with food baskets and gifts during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"We have been inundated with people requesting to adopt families for gifts," D'Arcangelo said.
Donors can provide funds, gifts or a food basket to assist families in need during the Holiday season. All gifts purchased are $25.00 and under. As a donor, you will be provided with a coded list of individual needs.
Last year, Auburn Youth and Family Services helped 110 families through this program.
Contact Sheryl Spafford at email@example.com for more information or to adopt a child or family.
The last day to donate to the Thanksgiving Basket program is Monday, Nov 21 at noon. All donations can be dropped off at AYFS located at 21 Pheasant Court.