Lev Ben-Ezra: Grateful for UMass partnership

Published: 5/17/2021 2:59:28 PM During this unprecedented year, the Amherst Survival Center has relied, more than ever, on our part...



Published: 5/17/2021 2:59:28 PM

During this unprecedented year, the Amherst Survival Center has relied, more than ever, on our partners, including our key partnership with UMass Amherst.

We have long valued our relationship and all the ways they are a part of our work. As the class of 2021 graduates, including many beloved volunteers and interns, we want to offer our own mortarboard toss to the entire UMass community.

Contributions through the UMass Amherst Community Campaign (UMass’ workplace giving program) exceeded $28,000 this year. Combined with other campus fundraisers, the UMass community provided vital support for our rapidly expanded food and nutrition programs, ensuring that our neighbors have access to the food they need.

At a time when many of our senior volunteers needed to step back due to health risks, UMass students, faculty and staff stepped forward, as volunteers, work study students and interns. Departments and student groups have continued to host food drives and fundraisers, even from afar.

UMass Dining donated food, containers, and freezer space, cooked the sides for our Thanksgiving meal, and provided ongoing guidance as we redesigned our operations. Together, we have helped ensure the food security of the UMass community. As campus operations shifted due to COVID, and the student-led on-campus food closets closed, we partnered with the Dean of Students Office to deliver groceries to food-insecure students. Employee unions helped ensure that furloughed workers knew how to access food from the center.

Throughout the pandemic, we have relied on UMass for free and easy to access COVID-19 testing. This convenient and fast community testing program has helped us stay safe and keep our programs operational. Many of us have now turned to UMass for vaccines.

The Amherst Survival Center is only as strong as the collective efforts of our community. Together we have tripled the size of the lunch program and have provided more than a million meals — prepared and groceries — to more than 7,000 people over the last year. I am grateful for the UMass community and the role they have played. Congratulations, graduates! Go UMass!

Lev Ben-Ezra

Amherst

The writer is executive director of the Amherst Survival Center.



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