AMESBURY — When it comes to the common police phrase "to serve and protect," it can seem the meaning of "to serve" isn't fully understood. To get a better idea what it means, however, all you have to do is participate in the Amesbury Police Department's "Fill a Cruiser with Food" drive. The annual food drive is being held on Saturday, Nov. 20, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., outside the Macy Street Stop & Shop.
Food collected at the drive will stock shelves and provide meals at Our Neighbors' Table, Amesbury's food pantry, throughout winter and into spring. Our Neighbors' Table serves roughly 175 people during its weekly Wednesday meal and about 200 households a week through its combined food pantry programs. It is located inside Main Street Congregational Church in downtown Amesbury.
People are encouraged to donate nonperishable items, especially cereal, pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, fruit juice, baby food, soup and beef stew, kids snacks, baked beans, and canned food like Spaghetti-O's. Volunteers will be outside the store to collect items and place them inside a cruiser, as well as a larger police truck. Food will then be loaded onto an Our Neighbors' Table truck and driven to the pantry. Helping out during the event will be WNBP station owners Pete Falconi and Carl Strube, who will be on hand for a portion of the event with entertainment from musical legends.
Amesbury police officer Thomas Hanshaw, who organizes the drive each year, said the department has been sponsoring the drive for seven years as a way of making Amesbury a better place to live.
"A lot of times, attention is geared toward enforcing law, but we're also here as a community service group," Hanshaw said.
Hanshaw said the idea came from former longtime Our Neighbors' Table director Rosemary Werner, who noticed another Boston-area department was collecting food for a local charity. So, when Werner asked Amesbury police to do the same thing, it wasn't hard to convince them to do so.
It's a service that Our Neighbors' Table that assistant director Joan Bukoskey said means the world, not only to the charity but to those who are in danger of going hungry.
"It's incredible what they do. They do it every year, and they give it their all," Bukoskey said. "I don't know what we'd do without their support. They're incredible."
The Fill a Cruiser food drive is one of four major ones that take place during the year. Others include a November food drive by local Boy Scouts, followed by a December drive sponsored by the Amesbury Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. Postal Service hosts another drive in the spring, while the Amesbury Sports Park hosts a continuous drive throughout the winter.
Hanshaw said those who miss the drive can still donate by bringing food to the School Street police station and dropping it off inside the station's front lobby. Cash donations are also very helpful, he said, adding that cash can be used to buy perishable items such as milk, eggs and bread.
For more information, contact Our Neighbors' Table at 978-388-1907 or Hanshaw at 978-388-1217 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.