As I write to you, the Amesbury Market is bustling with shoppers picking out their turkeys and bagging up their squash and potatoes and all the other essentials that they’ll prepare for a Thanksgiving feast with their family and friends. Volunteers are cheerfully meeting and greeting and holiday spirit is alive and present!
Now is always a busy time of year, this year being no different. In fact, when we opened our doors yesterday, we had already pre-registered 900 households for Thanksgiving and Christmas groceries (100 more than we served last year) and more are registering each day. But thanks to the more than 100 volunteers working this week and the continued support of a community always ready to rise to the challenge, every guest at our door will leave with arms full of groceries for the week and all the fixings needed for a holiday to be thankful for.
It may feel like magic, but the truth is happy Thanksgivings start with YOU. For all this, for your support, I extend my heartfelt thanks and share sincere gratitude on behalf of the Board and staff, and most importantly our guests. If you’ve made your gift this year, know that your generosity is already at work. And if you’re thinking about what or how much to give this holiday season, know your donation not only puts meals on your neighbor’s table today, it wraps her in a community that feeds her hope for tomorrow.
We wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.
ONT Comes to Newburyport
ONT is excited to officially announce the opening of a weekly market in Newburyport. The program opened in June thanks to a partnership with Community Service of Newburyport and is currently serving residents of Newburyport, Newbury and West Newbury every Thursday, 11:00am – 2:00pm. After years of partnering on referring local residents to each agency’s services, CSN’s move to their new location at St. Paul’s Church in 2018 was the catalyst to bring ONT and CSN’s strengths and resources under one roof. The soft opening in June allowed both organizations to get settled in and work out any challenges. CSN officially welcomed the community at their ribbon-cutting on October 22nd, and both organizations are now looking forward to getting the word out. Read more about what impact ONT is making in Newburyport.
ONT Annual Breakfast Celebrates Impact
This year's Annual Breakfast was an inspiring morning celebrating the collective impact of the community joining together to create food security. Dr. Gail Fayre of Anna Jacques Hospital, volunteer Bob Murciak and board member Kellyn Nahas bravely shared their own stories with the group. (pictured here right to left with emcee Dana Marshall)
Read more about the breakfast and 2018 impact. #whatsyourstory
Upcoming at ONT
Thinking about your charitable giving this time of year?
Thank you to our 2018 Great Neighbors!
ONT is excited to officially announce the opening of a weekly market in Newburyport. The program opened in June thanks to a partnership with Community Service of Newburyport and is currently serving residents of Newburyport, Newbury and West Newbury every Thursday, 11:00am – 2:00pm. After years of partnering on referring local residents to each agency’s services, CSN’s move to their new location at St. Paul’s Church in 2018 was the catalyst to bring ONT and CSN’s strengths and resources under one roof. The soft opening in June allowed both organizations to get settled in and work out any challenges. CSN officially welcomed the community at their ribbon-cutting on October 22nd, and both organizations are now looking forward to getting the word out.
Contrary to public perception, Newburyport has the most residents struggling with food insecurity of the 12 cities and towns served by Our Neighbors’ Table. Based on data from the Greater Boston Food Bank, more than 1300 people living in Newburyport do not have a reliable source of food every day. What’s also staggering: of those in need, only about 40% are actually accessing help through public or private organizations. “The need is there, but it’s out of sight. It’s hiding in the shadows,” shares ONT Executive Director Lyndsey Haight. ONT guests often report feelings of shame or embarrassment for needing help, a feeling ONT works to break down through our focus on hospitality and a dignified shopping experience. “We’ve been focused on treating each other with kindness and respect for 26 years. Providing service with dignity is the right thing to do, and it’s also the most effective way to bring people out of the shadows and get them the help they need,” says Haight. “Our markets might be bright and pretty, but we still understand that no one wants to have to shop here. So our priority is to make it as enjoyable as possible and to ensure that we offer the food selections that our guests tell us they need most.”
For the last five months, ONT has been working with Newburyport residents and leaders to build an infrastructure to ensure no one has to go hungry. Building on the success in Amesbury, which was declared a Food-Secure City earlier in 2018, ONT is focused on partnerships, raising awareness of the need and reaching out to residents in need. Drawing from the data provided by GBFB, ONT has partnered with the Councils on Aging in Newburyport and Salisbury, Anna Jaques Hospital and Children’s Health Care to conduct a local needs assessment to understand where, for whom and why food insecurity persists. The first 30-day survey phase was completed in September and revealed that, of 250 respondents, 1 out of 4 (25%) reported experiencing food insecurity in the last year. Survey participants cross all ages and gender. Employment was cited most often as their primary source of income, yet the vast majority of respondents identify lack of enough money as their primary barrier to accessing food.
The information gathered is being used to drive further research and to implement creative programming and strategies to eliminate barriers between people and food. The weekly Newburyport Market is a first step. Partnerships with Newburyport Public Schools and Children’s Health Care are helping to reach people where they are, break down the stigma and shame, and help people get the help they need. Since just last year, ONT has already seen a 70% increase in the number of Newburyport residents accessing their market programs.
If you ask Emily White volunteers, she’ll tell you that she likes to be “part of a local solution.” Emily volunteers in the ONT office and organizes home grocery delivery bags every week. “It’s my favorite day of the week,” Emily says about her Wednesdays with ONT. She also helps with special projects like ONT’s Easter baskets, bags for homeless men and women, and food drive sorting. A mom of 4, Emily has brought her children to volunteer with her to teach them about giving back to their community (pictured here with her son).
Emily moved to Amesbury in 2006 and began teaching Italian with ONT’s neighbor, the Sparhawk School. She was involved with volunteer activities with ONT through the school, but always thought it would be nice to get more involved if she had extra time. Now a stay at home mother, Emily has carved some time out of her busy schedule to volunteer at ONT every Wednesday. Emily also volunteers in the library at the Amesbury Middle School where her middle son is a student. Emily brings a host of skills and experience to ONT, and will be our on-call Italian interpreter if the need ever arises. Emily says that she enjoyed the fulfillment of volunteering when she began last fall, but it has grown into something greater as she realized how special the Our Neighbors’ Table community is.
Want to join Emily as a volunteer? Fill out a volunteer application today!
This year's Annual Breakfast was an inspiring morning celebrating the collective impact of the community joining together to create food security. 2018 has seen ONT continuing to grow and serve more people than every before. Guests have walked through our market doors - at our central market and at our mobile markets - 20,450 times in 2018. More than 1,000 people - children, seniors, adults with disabilities, working adults and parents - who have not received help before are finding the help they need.
The theme of the morning was "Food Security Starts With You." None of ONT's impact would be possible with the volunteers, donors, and community partners that work together daily to ensure that none of our neighbors have to go hungry. In this spirit, ONT honored our 2018 Community Champions for their contributions. Sue Ranshaw and Betty Elliott were honored as individual champions for their over a decade of service to the organization and their role in starting and maintaining a mobile market in Merrimac. The Amesbury Council on Aging was honored as the organization champion for being a critical partner in creating a Food Secure Amesbury and ensuring that none of our Amesbury seniors have to worry about getting their next meal.
But perhaps the highlight of the morning was a conversation with 3 community members as to what ONT and food security means to them. Dr. Gail Fayre, Chief Medical Officer at Anna Jacques Hospital, Bob Murciak, an ONT volunteeer, and Kellyn Nahas, owner of the Barking Dog Ale House Group and ONT board member, each shared their powerful personal stories in a discussion monitored by emcee Dana Marshall of 92.5 the River.
In a true connection of the theme, the over 200 event attendees rose to the challenge giving $25 or more to provide someone with 1 meal a day for a month. Over $26,000 was raised by the breakfast, enough to provide 40 people with 3 meals a day for an entire year! Check out the Newburyport News article covering the breakfast.
Thank you to all our sponsors who made the breakfast possible!