When Andrea Marian, executive director of Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen and Pantry in Chicopee, first read an email offering to match the funds the pantry raises over Facebook this Giving Tuesday on Nov. 28, she thought it was a spam message.
“We got an email from Facebook saying it was happening,” she said. “At first I didn’t believe it.”
The email turned out to be a legitimate communiqué from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which will be matching donations up to $2 million made over Facebook during the sixth annual Giving Tuesday, she said.
“I feel like the amount of donations that we get on Giving Tuesday thus far has been rather small,” Marian said. “I’m hoping that’ll change this year.”
She said most of the time when people think of food pantries they think of canned goods, but donating money to Lorraine’s often does more, she said.
“We’re able to stretch the dollar a lot further by getting food from the Food Bank of Western Mass,” she said.
Ruben Reyes, a Chicopee resident and the volunteer coordinator at Lorraine’s, said around this time of year he thinks there are a lot of people who buy things on impulse due to holiday sales, who might appreciate giving to organizations like Lorraine’s instead.
“Giving back to Lorraine’s you’re not just helping out the pantry, you’re really helping out a family,” he said.
Marian said as a nonprofit organization, Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen and Pantry relies on donations from community members to provide services, including its nightly community dinners weekdays at 4:30 p.m. and pantry food given to local area residents.
On the afternoon of Nov. 27, volunteer staff were preparing for a post Thanksgiving meal donated by the Chicopee Knights of Columbus consisting of all the holiday’s food staples such as turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy.
Marian said one of the biggest misconceptions regarding soup kitchens and pantries is that most of the people who utilize these services are homeless.
“We did a survey last year where we had people self report. One of the questions was, ‘Do you work full-time?’ One of the biggest surprises is 60 percent of the people who took the survey actually work full-time.”
Reyes said the stigma that the soup kitchen is just for people who are homeless is something Lorraine’s is trying to do away with.
“We’re trying to help people be more open with accepting help,” Reyes said. “There’s a lot of pride that comes into accepting help or wanting to ask for help, but everyone could use a little supplement every now and then.”