Leominster, Mass. – To commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day of Service, a group of volunteers four hundred strong assembled at the DoubleTree by Hilton Leominster on Thursday evening; together, they packaged more than 100,000 meals for 20 local food pantries.

United Way of North Central Massachusetts organized the event, an effort to ensure that local families won’t go hungry, according to Phil Grzewinski, president of the local nonprofit organization that focuses on health, education and income initiatives.

“This is just incredible, the caring power of our community,” Grzewinski said. “It is our understanding that we set a record for the most meals packaged in Massachusetts for a single event.”

Volunteers worked in teams of 14 to assemble, package, seal and box nutritious meals of rice and beans, macaroni and cheese and other meals. They also had the opportunity to sample the food at the event. “Virtually everyone is surprised at how delicious the food is,” Grzewinski said.

“We can’t thank our volunteers and sponsors enough,” said Fran Longton, volunteer manager for United Way of North Central Massachusetts who oversees United Way’s Combat Hunger initiative, which was launched four years ago to help keep local families from going hungry.

“We want to extend a special thanks to Aubuchon Hardware, DoubleTree by Hilton, Phil and Debbie Richards, Research Results, Inc. and Dunkin’ Donuts, kcmc management, Inc., for making this event possible,” said Longton.

Volunteers from throughout the community participated in the event. Larger teams included 55 volunteers from Aubuchon Hardware, which was also a premier sponsor of the event; 31 volunteers from Research Results, Inc.; 18, United Parish of Lunenburg; 12, Leominster Credit Union; 12, AIS; 12, Community Healthlink; and 11 from Parker Hannafin. In addition, 12 volunteers from Tyco Simplex Grinnell and 30 students from Oakmont Regional High School in Ashburnham did preparation work prior to the event.

The benefit of using volunteers is that the final cost of each meal is around .34 each.

The meals will be distributed to food pantries in Athol, Leominster, Fitchburg, Gardner, Devens, Pepperell, Templeton, Winchendon and Westminster.

The United Way of North Central Massachusetts, www.uwncm.org, serves the communities of Ashburnham, Ashby, Athol, Ayer, Devens, Fitchburg, Gardner, Groton, Harvard, Hubbardston, Leominster, Littleton, Lunenburg, Petersham, Pepperell, Phillipston, Royalston, Shirley, Templeton, Townsend, Westminster and Winchendon.

Story Update:

Last Thursday we had our own ‘playoffs’ at our MLK Combat Hunger Event. Every table was assigned an NFL team name and the teams that finished first in their division headed to the ‘Super Bowl.’ Believe it or not, the ‘Patriots’ (the Aubuchon Hardware team) won the AFC division and the ‘Falcons’ (the Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster) won the NFC division. Congratulations to all the volunteers for making a fun and productive evening.

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