News

Annual charity event returns

Friday, February 24, 2012

By HATTIE BERNSTEIN

Staff Writer

BROOKLINE – Three years ago, when the Brookline Volunteer Fire Department Association organized its first fundraiser to collect food and money to supplement the town’s welfare budget, it set modest goals.

“We’d taken on a family at Thanksgiving and did the same thing for Christmas,” said association president Sheryl Corey, the wife of Fire Chief Charles Corey. “After Christmas, at meetings, we were talking about how so many people were out of work at the time, that there was big need in Brookline that Brookline hadn’t seen (before), and it would be nice if we could do something as a fire department to help the town.”

It didn’t take long for Corey to set up a meeting with Ann Webb, the town’s welfare officer, and begin planning the first “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” fundraising event, an evening program featuring a corned beef and cabbage dinner and professional entertainment.

This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, March 10, at the Brookline Event Center on Route 130. Tickets are $20 and must be purchased in advance.

“We had more than 250 people the first year. We sold out,” Corey said. “Every year, we sell out.”

Corey said the idea for the first event was to raise money by selling donated gift baskets and accepting monetary donations. Attendees were also urged to bring canned goods and other nonperishable food items in exchange for the $1 raffle tickets.

“It was amazing how much food we received,” Webb, the welfare officer, said. “I don’t think we ever thought about starting a food pantry. We never had such a lofty goal. But the food just poured in, and we had so much, there was nothing to do but start a pantry.”

Since then, the need, and community support, have mushroomed.

“We get two to three families a week who use the food pantry, sometimes a few more or a few less,” Webb said. “It’s been pretty steady at two to three, really since the beginning.”

At the same time, residents have continued to support the effort which also receives a $100 a month boost from the Hollis Brookline Rotary Club, Webb said.

“We do this with no outside help,” Webb said. “Our pantry runs so well that we just don’t need to take anything away from other pantries who really need it.”

Distribution of food and funds, moreover, is strictly confidential.

“We’re helping out very much behind the scenes,” Webb said. “It works because I’m the only one who knows. “We help people who don’t qualify for other help. The schools call and ask if we can help with a class trip for a student whose family needs support. It’s just a wonderful thing to have.”

Community spirit isn’t something new in Brookline, Corey said, describing the town as place where people have always “pulled together in a quick hurry to make things happen.”

And in the several weeks leading up to the March 10 fundraiser, the Fire Department is leading the charge to continue that tradition.

“We try to keep up with Ann (Webb),” Corey said, ticking off a list of items she was told the pantry needs, including dish and laundry detergent, paper towels and toilet paper, boxed macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and meats, milk, half-and-half, butter and eggs.

The pantry has a refrigerator and freezer, thanks to the town’s women’s club, which operates the pantry on Saturdays from 10 a.m.-noon.)

Corey said the Fire Department plans to purchase most of the food for the corned beef dinner, and members will also do the cooking. In addition, several businesses have promised to contribute.

“By now, it’s ‘old hat,’” Corey said. “You know what needs to be done.”

Brookline’s third annual Neighbors Helping Neighbors event will be held at the Brookline Event Center on Route 130 on March 10. Tickets must be purchased in advance from Sheryl Corey at 673-4058, Ann Webb, the welfare officer, or at Fire Department. Doors open at 5 p.m.; dinner will be served at 6 p.m.; and the entertainment features comedians Mike Donovan, Steve Scarfo and Chuck Grover. Donovan is featured on the NESN Comedy All Stars TV Show; Scarfo appeared in the movie “Fever Pitch;” and Grover was voted Portland’s Funniest Comic.

Hattie Bernstein can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 24, or hbernstein@cabinet.com.

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