By Jaclyn Reiss, Town Correspondent
A $4,405 donation to emergency food pantry A Place To Turn in Natick from outdoors sporting co-operative store REI in Framingham will stretch a long way in a post-holiday slump, said food pantry workers.
Hilary Ginsberg, the pantry's community outreach coordinator, said REI's donation last week was more than double last year's contribution of about $1,700.
"It really blew last year's total out of the water," Ginsberg said. "This money allows us to expand. This is just outstanding, and allows us to do more than what we might have planned."
For the second year in a row, REI raised money for the Natick pantry by asking holiday shoppers in December to add a dollar or more onto their total purchase price for donation.
"They would ask if the customers wanted to round up to the next dollar, or donate $3, or some small amount, and they had a great response from that," Ginsberg said.
Ginsberg said REI chose A Place To Turn because the sporting goods company wanted to reach out to a local community organization - a feat which proved beneficial in fundraising.
"People are very ready and willing to give to a food pantry in their community," Ginsberg said. "I think Americans in general are quite charitable around the December holiday time, and I think the money was staying local and going to great cause."
The money from REI will go toward programs for distributing fresh foods, striving to supply perishable items, meats, and dairy products to pantry diners.
The fresh foods program usually requires about $6,000 for half a year, Ginsberg said.
"The cost of fresh food is high, but we’re also getting more and more clients to the pantry," she said.
She said the donation comes at a needy time in the year for food pantries.
"During the year, food donations rise and fall," Ginsberg said. "They peak during the holidays, but then everyone forgets about it, and we’re down and out for summer, since people are out of school, etcetera. The January, February, March time can be very slow, but there’s still a great amount of need."
Ginsberg said she has noticed an increase in clientele at the pantry: currently, the pantry serves about 8,000 individuals per year, when a year and a half ago that number was 6,800 people.
"More and more people are relying on food pantries and other community resources, so people were probably ready to give back," she said.
According to the pantry's website, 80 percent of the organization's clientele come from Framingham, Natick and Marlborough. They serve approximately 2,400 households per year, with children comprising of 45 percent of individuals served.
The nonprofit receives some fund allocation from the Greater Boston Food Bank, but Ginsberg said the majority of money is received through private donors and grant organizations.
Further information, including a current donation request list, can be found online at http://www.aplacetoturn-natick.org.
Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org