The Thanksgiving and end-of-year holidays are anything but holiday times at The Open Door food pantry and service agency.
Indeed, the days leading up to Thanksgiving have proven to be among the busiest of the year, in terms of distributing meals to local families in need.
Julie LaFontaine, executive director of The Open Door, said that as of Tuesday evening, 921 holiday meals — each a turkey dinner with all the usual trimmings and fixings — had been distributed, already more than the roughly 900 that The Open Door handled last year; and the facility will remain open until 5 p.m. today.
“We’re definitely seeing an uptick in requests for holiday assistance,” said LaFontaine, adding that more than the usual number of calls have come in the days leading right up to Thursday’s holiday. LaFontaine said that seems to be stemming from the fact that more and more people are living paycheck to paycheck.
“Let’s face it,” she said. “There’s more and more of a gap between what someone makes, and what it takes to live.”
That said, LaFontaine said The Open Door has also been on the receiving end of more and more community generosity this year, as well; that’s included more collections from schools and student groups, including a competition among grades at Veterans Memorial School, with pupils delivering goods to The Open Door on Monday, and through efforts by Rotary International’s Interact Club at Gloucester High School, and the Gloucester High Student Council and National Honor Society chapters — all of whom were volunteering at the pantry on Tuesday.
“I would say that this year, more than any other that I’ve been here, people have really stepped forward to make sure that their neighbors have a Thanksgiving meal,” said LaFontaine, who’s been at The Open Door for 10 years. “It’s been heartwarming, and very gratifying to see from our community.”