Tri-Town residents reach out to neighbors in troubled times

Mar 22, 2020

As the Tri-Town came almost to a screeching halt due to coronavirus cancellations, some of its residents stepped up to make sure that others are fed, and kids cared for. 

The Town of Marion is keenly aware of how many of its programs involve supporting seniors and others by feeding them, and it went above and beyond to make sure that when schools and senior centers closed residents did not go hungry. 

Town Administrator Jay McGrail said that he had been part of a program in Sandwich that did something similar. Schools sent some kids home from school with bags of groceries every Friday, and the community pitched in to help over the summer.  

He said though the idea was new in Marion, it has been well-received. 

“Since we did the reverse 911 call, the phone has been ringing off the hook,” McGrail added, “for every call [for food] that we get, we get another asking to help.”  

Karen Gregory, Jody Dickerson and Shaun Cormier, who have been working heavily on the project with their staff members, will distribute food for two hours every Tuesday and Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m. until the crisis is over. They will also deliver food on the days when there is no drive.

McGrail said that at this time, the town can’t provide hot meals, but can provide non-perishables. 

It saw 22 cars of mostly senior come through the food drive on Tuesday, and had 68 cars on Thursday with many more younger families in line. 

After such a positive reception, McGrail said he is “hoping we can find someone who can help us run it beyond this” crisis period.   

Marion restaurant and store owner Kate Ross is holding her own food-related effort and offering free meals for kids whose families can’t afford to pay right now. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ross got the idea from talking with McGrail, who knew of a restaurant in Sandwich that was giving away meals. 

She offers kids a daily menu with three items on it at Kate’s Simple Eats which the kids can then pick up at the back door. The level of kid participation varies from day to day, since some “kids are scared to be out,” Ross said.  

But the reaction from the community has been great. “People have been offering donations to support the kids meals,” Ross said. This leaves her conflicted because the participation varies and she “wouldn’t want to take donations if they’re not going to kids.” 

Still, she remains committed to the cause, saying “as long as I can stay open I’m going to do this,” especially because she thinks it’s “going to get to a point where more and more people are going to need this.” 

For her, it ties into why she started Kate’s Simple Eats. 

“I love to feed people. I don’t want anyone to go hungry, even if they aren’t a kid,” Ross said. 

If there’s one thing she would like to convey, it’s “how much I appreciate the support from the community,” said Ross. “I’m not a crier, but I’ve been teary eyed with how nice people have been.” 

In Mattapoisett, a charitable effort unrelated to food is underway. Jessica Kelly owns four stores, including Belle’s and Isabelle’s in the Ropewalk and Village Toy in Fairhaven. 

Her toy shop inspired her to help when area schools closed down. 

“We have so many resources sitting at the store, and there’s a lot of kids in the community who could benefit from having a new game or craft,” said Kelly. “We have science kits — all this stuff that’s sitting on shelves and I know there are kids that are sitting at home with nothing to do.”

Although her initial idea was to donate items herself through the Old Rochester Regional School District or Mattapoisett Fire Department, she acknowledged that “she can’t give endless amounts because we would like to have a store when this is all over.” 

Instead, she started putting the word out on social media and providing toys and information for anyone who wanted to donate. 

“It’s nice to know that it’s going right back to local kids,” Kelly said of the donations.

Her shop is currently open with limited hours, but donors may direct message the store through Facebook or text her at 508-789-1337. 

Marion is still seeking donations of funds, bottled water, peanut butter, jelly, canned soups, beans and vegetables, canned fruit and applesauce, tuna, cereals and oatmeal, pasta, pasta sauce, crackers and granola bars. 

Food donations can be delivered to the Police Station, Fire Station 1, and donations can be left at the Community Center at any time in the outside container.