By Mac Cerullo Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News
---- — AMESBURY — Our Neighbors’ Table is gearing up for its busiest month of the year with a whole slate of food drives in advance of Thanksgiving Day, including one on Saturday and another at the polls on Election Day.
The organization got permission to set up a table in the Amesbury High School cafeteria while polls are open, and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. the group will be accepting donations from people before or after they vote.
“It’s a very popular model,” said Lyndsey Haight, director of Our Neighbors’ Table. “Across the country lots of towns hold a food drive at their election sites, which helps them get great turnout.”
Haight credited Amesbury High School senior Evan King, vice president of the AHS Student Athletic Leaders and a member of the ONT Food Drive Committee, with jumpstarting the Election Day food drive idea and helping make it a reality.
“We have group meetings and I brought up the fact that I’d be able to help out because election day is at the high school,” King said. “We figured since so many people are coming to vote, it would be a perfect time to have a drive and bring in lots of food.”
This past Saturday marked the beginning of the Boy Scout Food Drive, which will benefit Our Neighbors’ Table as well. The Boy Scouts will be leaving bags on people’s doorsteps, which residents can then fill up with food and leave out again on Saturday, Nov. 10, when the Boy Scouts will return to pick them up.
As Thanksgiving gets closer, the organization will be working to help supply those in need with Thanksgiving turkeys and other holiday fixings. The organization will be distributing on Thursday, Nov. 15, from 1 to 7 p.m., though preregistration is required.
The Amesbury Police Department will also be carrying on its annual “Fill-A-Cruiser” tradition. The police will be leaving a cruiser in the parking lot of Stop & Shop on Saturday, Nov. 17, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., where residents can fill the cruiser to the brim with food.
Then on Thanksgiving Day itself, the Booster Clubs of Amesbury and Newburyport will collect non-perishable foods during the annual Amesbury vs. Newburyport Thanksgiving Day football game, which will be held this year at Landry Stadium at 10 a.m.
Haight said there will also be more food drives coming up in December, and the organization’s Food Drive Committee would be working to spread some of their drives out more across the year into the spring and summer, when there are typically fewer food drives.
“This food drive committee is a cross-section of youth organizations, schools, local businesses and the local faith-based organizations,” Haight said. “We just wanted them to help us spread the existing drives throughout the year so we weren’t so winter heavy.”
This summer Our Neighbors’ Table faced a significant food shortage as it saw attendance at its weekend pantry skyrocket. At one point, Haight said they wouldn’t be able to meet the demand for food by the end of August if they didn’t get an influx of donations.
Once word got out, however, the community responded.
“We did really well,” Haight said. “We had several businesses come with carloads, so we’re doing OK; we’re not in surplus mode yet, but we’re doing well.”
Haight commended King in particular for his work with Our Neighbors’ Table, saying he has been an energetic advocate who has gone above and beyond to help the organization succeed.
“He’s really been great,” Haight said. “He also worked with the AD to get a food drive going at every seasonal sports banquet that they have.”
King said he’s been involved with Our Neighbors’ Table for about a decade now, and he and a lot of the other athletes like to get involved because it’s a good way to give back and become more well rounded.
For King in particular, there is also a personal connection.
“My mother’s father actually passed away about a decade ago, and every year on the anniversary of his death, we put together food baskets,” King said. “We make eight baskets and donate them to Our Neighbors’ Table. I’ve been involved for about a decade and I’ve gotten more involved in the past two years or so.”
Right now Our Neighbors’ Table is most in need of peanut butter, cereal, canned soup, canned chicken, canned tuna and healthy snacks like granola bars, raisins, dried fruit and graham crackers.
For more information, call Our Neighbors’ Table at 978-388-1907.