Fill the Hall drive a big success. Still more food needed for Seacoast kids this summer.

·2 min read

PORTSMOUTH — The partnership between The Music Hall and Gather once again came together Sunday and brought in donations of food and cash to help ensure children will not go hungry this summer.

Monte Bohanan of The Music Hall said this year, partly because of construction, the actual hall seats were not filled with food. The drive was held outside the Chestnut Street venue.

"People know about this and they have been coming all day," Bohanan said. "We love this event."

A goal of $50,000 was exceeded with $57,000 in total cash and food donations, according to Deb Anthony, executive director of Gather. Connexus Credit Union committed to match 25% of all donations up to $54,000, giving Gather an added $13,500.

Tim McCoy and Lisa Corman bring humor to the Fill the Hall event at The Music Hall in Portsmouth Sunday, June 26, 2022.
Tim McCoy and Lisa Corman bring humor to the Fill the Hall event at The Music Hall in Portsmouth Sunday, June 26, 2022.

Seacoast area residents anticipate the Fill the Hall event, and every year they come through, driving or walking by with donations of non-perishable food items, and cash donations intended to help with Gather's Meals 4 Kids program, which delivers food to about 700 greater Seacoast children each week during summer school vacation. This includes weekly delivery in Rochester.

Denise Wheeler, who assists with Fill the Hall each year, said raising funds is badly needed.

"Filling the Hall is about 10 tons of food," Wheeler said. "That is not enough to feed kids all summer."

Anthony said with people recovering from COVID and inflation driving up food prices, Gather is seeing more families than ever.

"We tell our members that if they are facing financial insecurity, to come to us for their food," Anthony said. "That helps free up money they can use for rent and bills. We know our families are going to struggle right now in this poor economy and we are here to help."

Deb Anthony and Denise Wheeler take in donations at the Fill the Hall event at The Music Hall in Portsmouth Sunday, June 26, 2022.
Deb Anthony and Denise Wheeler take in donations at the Fill the Hall event at The Music Hall in Portsmouth Sunday, June 26, 2022.

Anthony said Gather buys food, supplementing the non-perishable donations with fresh food, milk, eggs, meat, fish and fresh fruits and vegetables.

"We are all about providing fresh," said Seneca Bernard, assistant director at Gather. "We work to create partnerships, to get teams involved, like one we have with 4H teens at UNH. They have two warehouses and are providing us with produce like lettuce, spinach and pea pods. Hannaford in Durham and Portsmouth will come here at 2 p.m., with trucks loaded with food. They are selling $10 bags and will deliver it all to us."

"During COVID people were incredibly generous and we are grateful," Anthony said. "Now with this economy, we need extra help again to keep our families fed."

Seneca Bernard, assistant director for Gather, at the Fill the Hall event at The Music Hall in Portsmouth Sunday, June 26, 2022.
Seneca Bernard, assistant director for Gather, at the Fill the Hall event at The Music Hall in Portsmouth Sunday, June 26, 2022.

Bernard said while Gather is officially estimating it will feed 700 children this summer, he expects that number will be higher.

"We provide each kid with five breakfasts, five lunches and five snacks (each week)," Bernard said. "With the number we are looking at, we anticipate the need for 60 tons of food, at least."

Donations are accepted at gathernh.org or by dropping off food at 210 West Road in Portsmouth during business hours.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Gather Fill the Hall drive brings food, money donations. More needed.