BERLIN – Local culinary artists and residents this week donated their time and services to feed the community.
For the second year, the Berlin Arts and Entertainment Committee joined forces with local businesses and St. Paul United Methodist Church to host Artists Giving Back, a community-wide event that provides residents with a hot meal.
Robin Tomaselli, a member of the Berlin Arts and Entertainment Committee and owner of Baked Dessert Café, said the yearly event coincides with Giving Tuesday, a global initiative that encourages individuals to donate their time, money and services.
In this case, prepared food donated by several local establishments was given to anyone who walked through the doors of St. Paul on Tuesday.
“It’s about breaking bread with people in the community,” she said.
Tomaselli said the committee was inspired to create the event after working on a community mural with local students and providing cooking classes to children in Worcester Youth and Family Services’ Sabers and Sages program. She explained that several students often lack access to meals during the holidays and rely heavily on school lunches.
“I think it’s easy to live in your own insulated bubble, but I had never got my head around the fact that there were kids right here under our noses that were stressed just because of lack of food, particularly during the holidays,” she said.
It was then that the Berlin Arts and Entertainment Committee decided to host Artists Giving Back.
“We definitely recognize that there are plenty of awesome organizations that provide food to people who are in need on a weekly basis, but we thought that we could do something from the standpoint of the artists community, particularly knowing that we have some amazing culinary artists in our area,” she said. “So we started to reach out and everybody was so excited about doing it.”
Tomaselli said even students in the Worcester Youth and Family Services program volunteer their time during the three-hour event.
“They got a chance to see firsthand people of all different races, of different religions, of different socioeconomic backgrounds come together for a common good, which was to offer a hot meal and a friendly face to anybody who needed it,” she said.
This year, Tomaselli said several area businesses have donated prepared dishes, including meats, sides, desserts and drinks.
Shimar Farms, Fins Ale House, The Globe, Blacksmith, Atlantic Hotel, Burley Inn Tavern, The Good Farm and Worcester Technical High School, for example, provided an assortment of savory foods while Baked Dessert Café and On What Grounds provided sweet treats and beverages. The Preziosi family crafted the centerpieces for the tables.
“This year, like last, the entire culinary community in Berlin stepped up to the plate,” she said.
Tomaselli also acknowledged the support of St. Paul United Methodist Church leaders, who provided space to host the event and volunteers to serve the food.
“Their ministry has helped prepare some of the food,” she said. “So that has been invaluable. That old adage ‘It takes a village,’ is certainly true.”
Eloise Henry-Gordy, a member of St. Paul and volunteer for Artists Giving Back, said she was excited to be a part of this year’s event.
“Our motto is we are a beacon of hope in our community and what a more positive way to do that,” she said. “It is an awesome community activity and we get to see everyone come together.”
Henry-Gordy added that volunteers would also be delivering platters to the sick and shut-ins in the community.
“We are doing what we are supposed to do, good Christians being God’s hands and feet here on Earth and I like that everybody is working together,” she said. “It makes it nice.”
Tomaselli said between 20 and 25 individuals have volunteered to serve and deliver food this year. Remaining food items will be donated to Diakonia.
“It’s a monumental community effort,” she said. “Kind hearts and a giving spirit is what, in my opinion, makes Berlin the coolest small town.”