United Way’s Largest Thanksgiving Project to Date Responds to Increased Need and COVID-19 Challenges

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. 

On Saturday, November 21, United Way is meeting both challenges head-on, 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.

United Way is partnering with Roca and The Neighborhood Developers to provide gift cards to 650 Chelsea families.

“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 will be held at 23 distribution sites on November 21 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.

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.

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.

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