The scenes emanating from New York City, the Pentagon and the
hillside of Pennsylvania on Sept. 11 were horrific. The utter
destruction, the loss of lives, the disruption in lifestyle caused
to so many families will remain frozen in our minds.
The response of so many Americans who were quick to come together with
donations of food, money, clothing, equipment, blood, and pure
volunteerism also made a lasting impression.
Here in Central Massachusetts, countless numbers of people stepped
forward on Thursday, Sept. 13th, during a public demonstration of support.
Inspired by radio stations WSRS 96.1 FM, and its sister station, WTAG 580 AM,
area citizens were invited to Worcester's Elm Park from 7 am to 3 pm to drop
off donations of bottled water, protein bars, snack foods, and other
non-perishable items. The Worcester County Food Bank was asked to
coordinate the collection effort.
The response was immense.
As the day ended it was estimated 100,000 pounds of water, other beverage,
food and even work gloves, socks and other donated items had been delivered
through a variety of sources. Local corporations like Norton Co., National
Grid/Massachusetts Electric, schools and civic organizations, and dozens of
individuals delivered cases of product to Elm Park. The shear volume made it
impossible for the Food Bank alone to handle.
Worcester Airport Limousine Service delivered donated food and water on behalf of local civic organizations.
Soon, trucks began arriving from such sources as Coca-Cola, Teamsters Local
170, Clark Mailing Service, Worcester Envelope, Consolidated Freight, and the
City of Worcester. They were quickly filled to capacity and driven to the
Food Bank's warehouse in Shrewsbury to be unloaded (a process that continued
for several days).
Additional boxes were needed to store and separate food donations.
Rand-Whitney Industries Corp. in Worcester, and Lancaster Packaging
in Hudson, assisted by donating hundreds of heavy duty boxes.
There were the volunteers, dozens of men, women and students who felt
compelled "to do something."
A mother of young children passed by the food drive at about 9 a.m. after
walking her children to school. "I have time to give until I return to get
my children this afternoon. What can I do to help?" she wanted to know. It
was a refrain heard from so many people.
A young boy on his way to school, accompanied by his mom, stopped to offer
his week's supply of snack foods. "He said the relief workers in New York
can use it more than he can," the mother told Food Bank staff.
Dozens of students from John DiPietro's class at Worcester State College
arrived, one wave after another, to accept food from motorists and other
passersby and load it into boxes and then onto trucks.
Officers from the Worcester Police Department kept the flow of dozens
of vehicles waiting around the perimeter of the park orderly until drivers
were able to unload their donations.
And then there were the truckers. More than one driver of a large rig
arrived -unsolicited- urging that their truck be filled with food and
water. "I'll take this into Manhattan for you right now," several insisted.
Donors like the employees of Allegro Microsystems in Worcester, along
with countless other friends and neighbors, contributed in excess of
$50,000 in cash to the American Red Cross disaster relief effort. Officials
from the Central Massachusetts chapter of the Red Cross were asking
well-intentioned friends who wished to donate blood to "please call in
a few weeks to schedule an appointment. Blood will be needed for a long time."
It quickly became apparent that donations from across the U.S. were
effectively creating another problem for officials in New York -
where to put all the food and water and other items until they could be
dispersed and consumed?
Recognizing this dilemma, the Worcester County Food Bank immediately
reminded donors late last week that not all food may be shipped to New
York City. America's Second Harvest - the national affiliation of food
banks - as well as New York officials have asked that donations be set
aside (if possible) for the present. A New York Times article reported
by the weekend 100 tractor-trailers were lined up in Manhattan waiting to
unload deliveries and the Salvation Army and other disaster-response
agencies were themselves desperately trying to access space to stockpile
The Worcester County Food Bank has since registered with the New York
State Emergency Management data bank and will warehouse its donations
in Central Massachusetts until at least some of the product can be
accepted in Manhattan.
Locally, donors have been reminded that no product currently inventoried
at the Worcester County Food Bank will go to waste. Whatever cannot be
accepted in New York or the nation's capital will be used to assist shelters,
food pantries, neighborhood centers and other human service programs in
If you would like to know what you can do in the weeks ahead to help hungry
people who are assisted by programs in Worcester County, contact the Food
Bank's office of Resource Development at 508-842-3663.