Photo: Working hard at Clay Pit Pond during Belmont Serves.
The folks at Lazarus House in Lawrence debated whether to make the trip to Belmont on Columbus Day with both of its trucks.
The anti-poverty non-profit received word that due to the upcoming move of the Belmont Food Pantry to Town Hall, Belmont Serves – the annual service day in Belmont organized by the Belmont Religious Council that celebrated its 10th year – was seeking to donate its food drive which is part of the annual event to the ministries which has been inundated with thousands of people from Lawrence, North Andover and Andover impacted by a natural gas disaster that occurred on Sept. 13.
When told to expect more than 1,000 bags of donated food and sundries, “they said ‘you’re the answer to our prayers’,” said long-time Belmont Serves volunteer Tina John at a noontime pizza and ice cream lunch at the end of the event.
Earlier in the morning, some at Lazarus House didn’t believe “[we] had that many bags of food,” said John retelling the conversation. While the ministries brought both trucks, “the whole way down [from the Merrimack Valley] we were talking, saying ‘I’m sure they don’t have that much food.”
But when they turned into Beth El Temple and saw the food and other goods being sorted, “they said, ‘You do have that much’,” said John.
In fact, both the large and medium-sized trucks were stacked to their roofs with parcels with what was collected earlier in the day. And the volunteers had enough to send food to the Waltham and Arlington food pantries.
Approximately 6,000 bags were distributed around town which was collected by dozens of teams and later sorted by weight – no one wanted to have light crackers placed next to large cans of tomato sauce – then placed in the trucks.
“Some people said they had done routes for years and usually they’d get one bag and this year people put out more bags,” said Janet McMullen, who organized the distribution and pickup.
Just the food distribution drive would have been a success by itself, but Belmont Serves is more than that. It included service projects – from cleaning around elementary schools like the Burbank and Butler and other public spaces such as Clay Pit Pond – with the goal of making the town a better place for all residents.
“Because Belmont Serves is now in its 10th year, many residents know about it and want to help,” said Rev. Joe Zarro of Plymouth Congregational Church who is council president this year. “The schools help a lot by giving service community hours to the students whic