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By J.D. O’Gara

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“It kind of takes a community to make this happen,” says Holly Fischer-Engel, volunteer with the Holliston Newcomers, who appreciate, she says “any little help.” with their Thanksgiving Basket effort, a joint venture between their group and the Holliston Pantry Shelf, with a lot of help from people and groups from town. The need this year is great. Last year, the Newcomers made 135 baskets for families in Holliston. This year, according to the food pantry, 150 were requested.
“Our customers sign up for the turkey dinners,” says Amy Porter, of the Holliston Pantry Shelf. “We let them know how many we need, and (the Newcomers) get all the items, including the turkeys. We also get people who drop off turkeys for November and December.” Porter says the food pantry is open extended hours for customers to pick up the turkeys.
“We really rely on our community organizations,” says Fischer-Engel, who is new in town and who’s been involved with the Holliston Newcomers since the summer. “For example, we talked to St. Mary’s today, and they have a K through 10 CCD program. Each grade will generate a whole box filled with goodies. Various churches around town, like the First Congregational, will do that,” she says, adding that children from the Placentino School extended day program and churches are helping with Thanksgiving cards.”
Fischer-Engel hopes others will consider donating.
“This is a big undertaking, and the Holliston Newcomers could use your help!” says the Newcomers website, www.hollistonnewcomers.org. The deadline for donations is November 9th, 2013. Fischer-Engel notes that donations could be food items, or monetary. Potential donors can contact her at holly_fischerengel@yahoo.com.
“On our website, we have a link for Thanksgiving Baskets under civic and community tabs,” she says. “$10 pays for pie and produce; for $20 you can donate a turkey; $75 will pay for an entire basket. There’s also a Paypal link and we have a list of supplies needed.”
If you don’t make the November 9th cutoff, you can still donate in a different way. On Saturday, November 16th, the Holliston Newcomers will hold a food drive at the Shaw’s in Ashland. The Newcomers, along with various other volunteers including Girl Scouts, will be at the site from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Volunteers can sign up for 2-hour shifts, and anyone interested can contact Kate Burnham through the Newcomers’ website.
“We’ll have various groups at different times of the day,” says Fischer-Engel.
At the food drive, she says, donations can be made three different ways.
“Monetary, you can buy a prepackaged bag,” she says, explaining that Shaws will have bags set up inside, “ or we’ll also have a list of items we’re looking for at that time.”
Once all the items are gathered, it’s time for production.
“Sunday the 24th is the day to pack baskets,” says Fischer-Engel. “We start around 7 a.m., and it pretty much goes all day.” The day, she says, requires all different volunteers, and the effort is conducted in one of the members’ basements.
“We basically make a huge production line and go down the line and assemble baskets,” she says. “We’ll only load that day the nonperishable items,” including items like roasting pans, coffee, cream filled cookies, black olives, a box of stuffing, jar of turkey gravy, a can of corn, a can of mixed nuts, among others. Monday, says Fischer-Engel, “we pick up the perishables – turkey, fresh pies, vegetables (Hannaford is helping with fresh produce), all sorts of good stuff, and that morning, after we get the perishables, we drop them off at the food pantry.”
Helping hands with mini-vans or SUVs are sought for that Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m.
“Please let us know if you're able to help us by transporting groceries-- all of our fresh produce-- from Hannaford in Milford and dropping off at our Basket stuffing location in Holliston. If you're able to help we would be so grateful for your assistance. Many hands make light work!” reads the Newcomers’ website.
What’s important, says Fischer-Engel, is that “we don’t know who they go to. It’s all confidential.”
In addition to Thanksgiving, November is the month that the Holliston Pantry Shelf puts out its annual mailer for donations.
The mailer will come to Holliston residents the week before Thanksgiving,” says Porter. “That’s our budget to pay for everything. We buy groceries on a weekly basis, and we have rent, a van that needs regular maintenance…and volunteer Sylvia Stickney peruses all the circulars each week, to try to find the best deals for the pantry, but costs are going up.”
Porter explains that donations are absolutely critical to the operation of the Holliston Pantry Shelf, which has 15 board members and 80 volunteers. This month, about 5,000 Holliston households will receive their annual call for donations in the mail.
“It’s our big drive to ask for monetary donations. We don’t get any money from the government. We rely completely on donations from the community.”
And every little bit helps.

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