Westford, Mass. – St. Mark’s Episcopal Church’s 5 Loaves, 2 Fishes Matching Gift Campaign for hunger relief is off to a strong start, with more than $4,000 raised for five local hunger organizations: The Westford Food Pantry, Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry in Devens, The Open Pantry in Lowell, St. Paul’s Soup Kitchen in Lowell, and Merrimack Valley Interfaith Group family hunger relief program in Lawrence.
St. Mark’s parishioners will match each dollar given to the five local programs—up to $6,000—doubling the impact of donations to organizations straining under an increase in demand for their services.
According to Rick Forest, president of St. Pauls' Soup Kitchen, the money already raised through the 5 Loaves 2 Fishes Campaign has been essential to keeping its operation running smoothly.
"During the pandemic the soup kitchen had to shift to serving take-out meals only. While we are thankful that we could still serve the hungry in this new way, our costs increased as a result of needing to supply containers—take-out boxes and bags,” Forest said, adding that the soup kitchen regularly serves more than 100 people each night. “During this time, we have also taken on a new partner, and we are supplying 20+ meals every night to the Life Connections Center, a small community soup kitchen and homeless outreach center in Lowell, in addition to serving the people who come through our doors."
The pandemic has also forced the Westford Food Pantry to change the way it distributes food, according to Ken Hyle.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our pantry and how we operate. Our neighbors are not allowed inside to shop, so we prepare bags and distribute them in our parking lot twice weekly. Normally, we average about 260 visits a month, but with the pandemic, we had a six-month period where we had approximately 345 visits per month,” said Hyle.
The money raised so far, which has already been distributed to the partner organizations, was used by the Westford Food Pantry to purchase personal care products and perishable items, such as eggs, butter, and meat, according to Hyle.The 5 Loaves 2 Fishes Campaign runs until Easter Sunday, April 4.
Donate to the campaign via credit card or electronic bank transfer by visiting www.st-mark.org/give and choosing 5 Loaves, 2 Fishes from the drop-down menu. Or, you can donate via check mailed to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 5 Loaves, 2 Fishes, 75 Cold Spring Road, Westford, MA 01886.
For more information, visit www.st-mark.org or call: 978-692-7849.