United Way’s Largest Thanksgiving Project to Date Responds to Increased Need & Covid-19 Challenges

November 21, 2020

BOSTON – The ongoing Covid-19 public health and economic crisis has both increased the number of families in need and created new challenges for distributing Thanksgiving meals in person this holiday.

Together with its network of community-based organizations, United Way met both challenges head-on today, providing a record number of 15,000 families across 23 communities with gift cards to purchase food for a Thanksgiving meal.  In 2019, United Way provided 11,000 families with bags of food for a Thanksgiving meal. Due to current Covid-19 health and safety concerns, United Way made the decision to distribute gift cards this year through its network of agency partners instead of recruiting in-person volunteers to pack and distribute food.

“With the ongoing crisis and unemployment rates as high as 30 percent in hard-hit cities, countless workers in our region remain underemployed with reduced hours and are struggling to make ends meet,” said Bob Giannino, President and Chief Executive Officer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “Adding to the crisis, many local traditional Thanksgiving meal drives are not able to take place in person this year due to necessary health and safety Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines.  We’re proud that so many businesses and individuals stepped up to help United Way serve 4,000 more families this year in even more communities.”

United Way’s Thanksgiving Project was held at 23 distribution sites today in the following communities:  Chelsea, Attleboro, North Attleboro, Milton, Lowell, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lynn, Quincy, South Boston, Randolph, Weymouth, Somerville, Malden, Medford, South End, Dorchester, along with Rochester and Newmarket in New Hampshire.  Families will receive grocery store gift cards valued at $50 or a gift card valued at $35 and a turkey, depending on which site they pick up their meals.

Partnering with the United Way, Catholic Charities of Boston distributed 4,000 Thanksgiving dinners to families that will feed over 12,000 people.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley helps distribute food and gift cards at the Catholic Charities Yawkey Center in Dorchester.

“In these challenging times, we worked with the United Way to ensure that we were able to provide families that rely on us with a Turkey dinner to celebrate one of our most treasured holidays,” said Kevin MacKenzie, CEO of Catholic Charities. “We are seeing more and more people who are facing food insecurity for the first time. Since March, we’ve experienced a five-fold increase in families seeking food assistance at our food pantries. We are extremely grateful for the United Way’s support today and throughout the year to help us care for those most vulnerable within our community,” he added.

Lead sponsors include: UPS, Tishman Speyer, Eaton Vance Foundation, US Foods, Winn Companies, Envision Bank, Vertex, Wegman’s, SS&C Eze, AEW, Bristol County Savings Bank and Silicon Valley Bank.

Agency partners include Catholic Charities (Dorchester, Lowell, Somerville and the South End), Attleboro Area Interfaith Collaborative (at the Hockomock YMCA and the Attleboro YMCA), Concord Baptist Church in Milton, Dwelling House of Hope in Lowell, Merrimack Valley Food Bank, Emmaus, Family Service of the Merrimack Valley, Interfaith Social Services in Quincy, Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development, Mary Ellen McCormack Housing Development in South Boston, Roca and The Neighborhood Developers in Chelsea, Town of Randolph, Weymouth Food Pantry, Malden YMCA in Malden and Medford, and Community Action Partnership of Strafford County and Newmarket Community Church in New Hampshire.

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley has raised and distributed over $8 million to more than 300,000 vulnerable people, providing emergency financial assistance of $300 on average to help pay for food, rent/housing, utilities, and other basic needs. More than 100,500 households received food assistance, 3,500 households had utility/rental help and another 8,000 households received general financial assistance.