By Cela Dorr, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – The COVID-19 pandemic changed so much for so many, but the work of Provision Ministry has stayed on course, with some adjustments. Through an impressive network of corporate, retail, wholesale and smaller groups as donors, it is one-part supply chain manager, one-part delivery service and one-part contract solicitor in order to serve over fifty nonprofits who in turn, support thousands of individuals around the state.
The mission of the organization is to provide brand new and unused goods to the homeless, veterans, people in recovery from substance abuse, new immigrants/refugees and other underserved individuals. In addition to fresh foods, this also includes brand new shoes and clothing, personal hygiene products and school supplies. This organization is able to take the time, money and pressures of soliciting and/or buying out of the hands of nonprofits so that they can focus on providing dignified care to their clients.
The Westborough based nonprofit is led by President & Founder Thomas Slicklen; his in-home office and a loading dock attached to a warehouse in Bellingham are where a small fleet of vehicles await to be filled to make their deliveries. In 2019, over $1.4 million in new products were donated and given out, but 2020 saw a sharp increase in demands from the nonprofits Slicklen supplies, with over $7.5 million in products donated. Requests for personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer and cleaning products started to roll in which meant finding new corporate and retail sponsors to donate. In places like Springfield, Chicopee, Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, Fitchburg, Westborough and Worcester, distribution hubs have been established so the nonprofits can minimize travel times in order to access and then distribute to their clientele.
In late summer 2020, a partnership was established between Provision Ministry and the Farmer to Families program. COVID-19’s impact on the restaurant industry is well known, but the large scale farms still had product that they needed to sell. Slicklen receives pallets filled with dozens of boxes, weighing over 30 pounds each, and is able to turn those around to supply the partner nonprofits with fresh produce, dairy, meat and grains. This allows for those partner nonprofits to focus on getting food in the homes of their clients and while the commercial farmers can also make a living. Slicken estimates approximately $1 million dollars of food will be received and distributed this month alone.
The volume of requests from the partner nonprofits steadily increases because the needs of the clientele are widening as are those who are seeking assistance. Comparing what was happening this time last year, Slicklen sees 2021 being a banner year in that they are well on their way to receiving and donating over $12 million in goods by year’s end. How does one measure success in a business that is expanding because there are more humans suffering and/or falling on hard times? Slicklen measures it based on the impact the work has on lifting the spirits and preserving the dignity of the individual client, from anecdotal feedback he receives from the nonprofit partners. Hearing just one person’s deep appreciation means the goal and mission are being met and so the trucks will continue to roll in and out.
Learn more about Provision Ministry and their recent effort to fundraise for a new distribution center for their charity efforts…https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/provision-ministry-distribution-center.