‘Labor of Love’: United Way of Tri-County feeds familes on Thanksgiving

By Henry Schwan | hschwan@wickedlocal.com
Donations are needed to help feed 2,600 families this Thanksgiving. Money is coming in, but more is needed.
FRAMINGHAM – Paul Mina is grateful for the donations coming in to feed the hungry on Thanksgiving. But with the holiday quickly approaching, more money is needed.
“We got to hustle, do better,” said Mina, president and chief executive officer at United Way of Tri-County, which is hosting its sixth annual Feed-A-Family for Fifty program. Each $50 donation feeds a family of four with a turkey and all the trimmings, plus dessert.
Donations totaled approximately $265,000 last year, and Mina set his sights on $300,000 this year. There’s a ways to go, because Mina said approximately $100,000 was donated as of Thursday afternoon.
To donate, log on to uwotc.org/feedafamily or call 888-811-3291. Volunteers are also needed. The Daily News is a sponsor of Feed-A-Family for Fifty.
Struggle continues
Mina has worked with countless families that struggle to pay their bills over his 25-year tenure at the United Way, but the growing ranks of working poor make feeding the hungry on Thanksgiving more a challenge.
“It’s a big deal,” Mina said of the increased number of working poor that account for 40% of the clients served by United Way of Tri-County. The rest, Mina said, are the chronic poor. The United Way of Tri-County provides services to all towns in MetroWest, plus 35 communities in Middlesex, Norfolk and Worcester counties.
Big day
Two days before Thanksgiving is a big day because that is when families arrive at the United Way office at 46 Park St. in Framingham to pick up their meals. Roughly 2,700 families will participate, compared to 2,500 last year.
Clients from the United Way’s three food pantries signed up for a turkey dinner. One is the Pearl Street Cupboard and Café in Framingham, the fourth largest pantry in Massachusetts, Mina said. Marlborough Community Cupboard and WHEAT Community Connections in Clinton are the United Way of Tri-County’s other pantries.
Volunteers are a big part of the Thanksgiving meal effort. More than 100 will serve as personal shoppers on Tuesday when families select food items for Thanksgving. But the work isn’t done after selection, because volunteers will help box everything up, and see that families can get it home by car, taxi or bus.
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing,” Mina said.
Layers of expense
There are many layers of expense connected to supplying a free meal to 2,600 families, Mina said, including trucks and drivers to handle delivery, refrigeration to keep food fresh, warehouse space for storage, and requirements set by local boards of health.
Much of the food is donated by the Greater Boston Food Bank.
Labor of Love
Families will leave Tuesday’s pick-up day with bags of fresh vegetables, dairy items, pie crust and filling to make pumpkin pie, stuffing and potatoes for mashing.
It’s a big undertaking that requires weeks of planning, and Mina said it’s more than worth it.
“It’s a labor of love for the community,” Mina said.
Henry Schwan is a multimedia journalist for the Daily News. Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymetrowest. He can be reached at hschwan@wickedlocal.com or 508-626-3964.