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Daily News

HATFIELD — Wheeler & Taylor Insurance of Great Barrington and Canary Blomstrom Insurance Agency of Agawam are providing major support to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Two rounds of funding, one now and a second round in the spring, will pay for about 100,000 meals. The Food Bank provides food to 165 food pantries, shelters, and meal sites in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties.

“We’re so grateful to Wheeler & Taylor and Canary Blomstrom for their social investment in the Food Bank’s mission to feed our neighbors in need at this critical moment,” Executive Director Andrew Morehouse said. “With this support, overall, we’ll be able to provide 100,000 meals to households struggling to make ends meet and put healthy food on the table.”

Added Wheeler & Taylor Insurance president J. Scott Rote, “thanks to the Food Bank, thousands of people in the region are able to get enough to eat every day. In this time of unprecedented need, our communities need unprecedented support, and we’re glad to do our part.”

Wheeler & Taylor and Canary Blomstrom are members of GoodWorks Financial Group, a network of common-ownership insurance, real-estate, and financial firms.

“It couldn’t be a worse year, a more heartbreaking year, for many folks,” said Sandy Brodeur, president of Canary Blomstrom. “I’m glad to know the grants will support food programs in our local area as well as regionally.”

With the pandemic, demand for food has grown exponentially. The Food Bank is serving 109,500 people a month in 2020, up 16% from 2019. The organization distributed 11.1 million pounds of food from March through October, a 30% increase. It estimates that about one in six residents in the region, including 40,000 children, or one in four, are food-insecure.

Daily News

GREAT BARRINGTON — This Thanksgiving is tough for many local seniors, who won’t be seeing friends and family because of the pandemic. So Wheeler & Taylor Insurance in Great Barrington teamed up with the Claire Teague Senior Center to give local seniors a complete Thanksgiving dinner they can easily prepare at home.

J. Scott Rote, president of the insurance agency, bought oven-ready turkey breast with gravy kits at a local supermarket. He and his staff added vegetables, cranberry sauce, mashed-potato mix, dessert, and four KN95 face masks to each package. In all, the packages will yield about 300 to 350 meals.

Polly Mann-Salenovich, director of the Clare Teague Senior Center in Great Barrington, delivered them to a local senior-housing complex and individual seniors.

“I got wonderful feedback from our seniors,” she said. “Wheeler & Taylor thought of everything. All I had to do was put the packages in our van and deliver them. I was thrilled. It really was wonderful, great fun.”

Rote has also received calls from seniors. One was from an old acquaintance who’s gone through tough times and now can’t get out easily. “He said he hasn’t had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in years and was almost in tears when he called to say thanks,” Rote said.

Separately, Kimberly Briggs, account manager at Wheeler & Taylor, who is also the secretary of the Junior League of Berkshire County, spearheaded employee fundraising for the People’s Pantry in Great Barrington. In total, Wheeler & Taylor employees donated 10 boxes of groceries that were delivered to the pantry by Briggs and Rote.

COVID-19 Daily News

GREAT BARRINGTON — Charles Burger, director of the Southern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee, was struggling with how he could help local towns obtain the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to protect poll workers from coronavirus.

Many of the 12 towns in the region will hold town elections soon. Several town administrators asked Burger, who is also the Great Barrington fire chief, for help in getting PPE. But that was problematic because the committee is charged with helping emergency responders in the region.

Then, unexpectedly, Scott Rote, president of Wheeler & Taylor Insurance, called him. Rote wanted to donate 2,000 surgical masks the insurance agency had purchased and then took it a step further. Rote had procured foam, elastic strapping material, and 200 sheets of polycarbonate plastic, and the staff of Wheeler & Taylor went to work constructing face shields as PPE.

“It was quite a pleasant surprise when Scott called,” Burger said. “The donation came at a perfect time. It would have been a very difficult need to fill otherwise.”

The face shields will be used by poll workers. Facemasks will be provided to poll workers and to ensure that all voters have proper masks on. Burger will allocate the PPE to the 12 towns in Southern Berkshire County — from West Stockbridge and Stockbridge down to the Connecticut border.

Egremont and Sheffield have elections coming up soon, and other towns will soon follow.

“It’s crucial to protect poll workers, who are often retirees volunteering their time, and we’re glad to help,” Rote said. “And I can’t say enough about our wonderful employees who gave their time to put together the face shields with their own hands using the materials we provided.”

Burger said that the situation caused by the pandemic does have a silver lining. “We’re seeing great community support from businesses and organizations that helps us get through this. The best in people is coming out.”

After the face shields are used for elections, they will be cleaned and repurposed, he added.

Wheeler & Taylor will unveil further COVID-19 charitable initiatives in the coming weeks.