MANCHESTER, NH – It was assembly day in more ways than one as close to 100 volunteers gathered at a warehouse on Perimeter Road to set in motion the 5th annual Shire Sharing Thanksgiving food drive.
State Rep. Amanda Bouldin, D-Manchester, was leading the charge for this unique holiday effort which she began in honor of her dad [click here for more on the history of Shire Sharing.]. It’s possible thanks to a coalition of like-minded participants, primarily supporters of the Free State Project.
On Nov. 21 the large warehouse near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, donated for the cause by Brady Sullivan Properties, became “assembly central,” with stations set up throughout of cases and boxes of canned and dry goods to be packed into tote bags, each individually packed according to the dietary specifications for close to 600 families.
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After the packing, there will be some quality control efforts to check every bag to make sure none of the items on the check-list were missed.
In addition to the deliveries, about 250 “generic” bags were packed for the New Hampshire Food Bank, for pick-up and distribution by them to retain clients’ anonymity.
Bouldin has spent the past several months recruiting volunteers, putting together spread sheets and adding to the recipient list, with help of local charitable outreach organizations to identify families in need.
Other services were donated by local companies and vendors, including All American Moving Company and Starving Artists Movers, to help transport the food, as well as Hannaford, Market Basket and Sam’s Club, for supplies – and more than 200 other individuals and corporate sponsors, listed here.
Deliveries will go out across the state, from Grafton to Nashua, making use of satellite operations at local churches and schools, including Polaris Charter School in Manchester, and Peaceful Assembly Church in Grafton.
Each family will receive a holiday meal with all the fixings, including cooking pan and ingredients for pumpkin pie. Because all recipients are contacted in advance, dietary adjustments are made to include vegetarian or cultural preferences, including fresh fruits and veggies, lentils, rice or other ethnic foods, says Bouldin.
According to the event website, Shire Sharing is a non-profit volunteer organization fueled by donations, a “collaborative effort among community activists to address social ills through voluntary action and private charity.”
Kathy Peterson, a volunteer from Nashua, said this is the fourth year she’s participated in Shire Sharing.
“I’m here to share with all my Liberty friends from New Hampshire the spirit of helping families in need, so they can have a beautiful holiday dinner together,” Peterson said.
“For me, one of the best things about it is that you get a hug from every family you deliver to – they’re surprised, they’re happy, it’s a beautiful feeling for us,” Peterson said. “This is the time of year to be thankful, and to put your feet and hands where your mouth is, and do some good.”
Dan Davis of Kensington said he has been wanting to organize a similar effort on the Seacoast, so he came this year to help out and see what goes into the operation.
“We’ve got a bunch of Libertarians on the Seacoast who identify as ‘Freecoasters,’ and so I’m thinking maybe we can do the same thing there, next year,” Davis said.
Shire Sharing was one of several Thanksgiving outreaches that took place today in Manchester, including the annual New Horizons dinner distribution and the One Day of Thanks at the Salvation Army, organized by Manchester Christian Church.
Bouldin spent the day fielding questions, solving supply and demand issues, nibbling sushi and delegating duties. The annual process doesn’t necessarily get easier, given the increasing volume of food baskets, she says, but this year she recruited a committee of volunteers to take charge, relegating herself to more of a staff position.
“This way I have one crazy week instead of four crazy weeks, and hopefully next year it will be better because now that all these volunteers helping me know what to do, they will be able to do it even more efficiently next time,” Bouldin said.
Amy Day stops by the check-in table to discuss the carrot shortage with Bouldin, and the two of them wonder whether maybe whole bags of carrots were picked up by volunteers rather than opening the bags and removing the designated number of carrots, as per the checklists.
“It will all work out,” says Bouldin. “We’ll be going back through every bag, just to make sure everything is in there.”
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