The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of January 16 to January 23, 2020

Non-profit Growing Places Grows More than 800 Pounds of Produce for Donation to Local Food Assistance Programs in North Central Massachusetts

The new volunteer-powered initiative, Seed-to-Community, allowed Growing Places to bring fresh, local food to low-income families in the North Central MA region

(Leominster, MA) – Local nonprofit Growing Places is pleased to announce that their pilot volunteer-powered program, known as “Seed to Community,” allowed them successfully to grow and donate more than 800 pounds of local, organic produce to local food assistance programs throughout North Central Massachusetts. From May through October of 2019, volunteers spent more than 400 hours growing, harvesting and delivering produce to food pantries, senior centers and soup kitchens.

This new volunteer project is supported by a three-year grant Growing Places received from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation to help them leverage and expand upon their existing volunteer program. The program is developed to maximize Growing Places’ unused community garden plots as spaces to grow fresh, healthy produce for low-income, low-access residents of North Central MA who may not have the ability to garden for themselves.

The project is working to address food insecurity in North Central MA’s five food desert communities, where 8% of residents get their food primarily from a food pantry and 66% consume less than half the recommended amount of fruit and vegetable servings per day: Clinton, Fitchburg, Leominster, Gardner and Winchendon. These communities have some of the highest rates of chronic disease in Massachusetts, according to the new MA Food is Medicine State Plan. Research has shown that incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet is one of the best ways to prevent diet-related diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The Seed to Community program seeks to fill the gap in foods offered at food pantries and other food assistance programs: fresh options are often not available due to the challenges that arise with storing perishable food items.

Under the three-year grant, Growing Places will continue expanding the program in the upcoming 2020-21 seasons by empowering local volunteers to build the capacity of its existing healthy, fresh food model to increase fresh produce offerings at local food assistance programs, glean and distribute produce to food access points that reach food insecure populations and offer skill-building activities and education to support produce consumption.

Growing Places is actively seeking volunteers to support these goals to increase availability and consumption of healthy food in the region. Those interested in volunteering can contact Janet Edwards, Director of Program Development and Education, at (978) 598-3723 or

About Growing Places
Growing Places was founded in 2001 to donate raised-bed vegetable gardens to low-income people in North Central MA in response to the high levels of poverty, health disparities and limited access to fresh, affordable and healthy food. Across 17 years, our work has expanded to creating long-term, sustainable changes that increase equitable food access and environmental sustainability in the most underserved communities: Fitchburg, Leominster, Clinton, Gardner and Winchendon. For more information, please visit

Current programs and services include:
Gardens/Nutrition Education: manage five community teaching gardens; conduct Learn & Grow Workshops; provide youth programing in primary schools and secondary schools to coordinate teen development.
Food Access: manage/sell produce at Fitchburg and Leominster, MA's farmers markets and co-chair the Community Health Network Area’s Healthy Living Committee.
Environmental Sustainability: provide outreach/education about tree benefits in environmental justice areas.

Chamber Releases Study Profiling North Central Massachusetts Economy

(North Central, MA) – A new report released today by the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce provides an in-depth look at the twenty-seven communities that comprise North Central Massachusetts. The Regional Economic Profile was compiled by a research team at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute and combines detailed economic, labor market and socioeconomic data, as well as analysis on the economic conditions within the region. The Chamber commissioned the Economic Profile report to support economic development efforts and serve as a resource for local businesses to make evidence based decisions.

“Our top priority is to advance the economy of North Central Massachusetts,” said Roy Nascimento, President & CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation. “This research validates what we already know – that North Central Massachusetts is a great place to live, work, visit and grow a business. We envision using the report to showcase the region, answer queries and support ongoing economic development efforts.”

“We are very excited to have worked with the Chamber on this report, and accompanying online data tool, highlighting the competitive advantages and issues facing North Central Massachusetts. It provides extensive benchmarking indicators comparing the region to other places around the state” said Mark Melnik, Director of Economic and Public Policy Research at the UMass Donahue Institute. “We hope this report will be a useful resource to help support economic development in the region and can serve as a model for other regions around the state.”

Some key highlights of the Economic Profile research include:

  • Proximity to Boston, Worcester and Southern New Hampshire benefits North Central businesses in terms of labor and market access. Commercial leasing rates that are a fraction of Boston’s and significantly lower than those found in the MetroWest area also boost the appeal of North Central Massachusetts.
  • The availability of large parcels of land with high capacity infrastructure in combination with proximity to highways, rail lines and airports also constitutes an advantage for the region. Large parcels with access to both transportation and infrastructure are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive in and around the fast-growing Boston-Cambridge area.
  • North Central Massachusetts has a diverse economy with notable strengths in healthcare and manufacturing (led by plastics products, pharmaceuticals, and electronics). Manufacturing is nearly twice as concentrated in North Central Massachusetts compared to national averages. Since 2010, most major sectors in the region have seen job growth.
  • Agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing have seen growth in North Central Massachusetts and now employ about 3,500 people. Agriculture is more concentrated in the region than the national average.
  • Thirty-two percent of the residents in North Central Massachusetts have a bachelor’s degree or higher and fully 61 percent of adults have some level of college or higher, indicating that the region possesses a varied and skilled workforce.
  • On standardized tests, students in North Central Massachusetts score higher than the state in science and English. SAT scores are on par or slightly higher than the state while the region’s dropout rate is lower.
  • Quality homes in good school districts are a draw for North Central Massachusetts. The average home values in affluent towns like Groton, Harvard, and Princeton are well below those in comparable MetroWest towns like Natick and Sudbury.
A full copy of the Economic Profile study can be found on the Chamber’s website at or on the economic development website

The Economic and Public Policy Research (EPPR) group at the UMass Donahue Institute is a leading provider of applied research, helping clients make more informed decisions about strategic economic and public policy issues. EPPR produces in-depth economic impact and industry studies that help clients build credibility, gain visibility, educate constituents, plan economic development initiatives, and prioritize investments. For more information on the group, please visit

This research is part of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber’s continuing efforts to help promote the region and advance the economy of North Central Massachusetts. For more information on the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and its affiliate organizations, please visit or contact the Chamber at 978.353.7600.

Park Theatre Awarded $50,000 Matching Gift Challenge

The Eppes-Jefferson Foundation, Inc. provides funding for program

JAFFREY, New Hampshire (January 13, 2020) - The Park Theatre today announced the launch of its "2X the Happiness" matching gift challenge. Now through May 2nd, first-time donors to The Park Theatre have the opportunity to double their donations by participating in this special fundraising campaign.

The program has been made possible by a grant from The Eppes-Jefferson Foundation, Inc. The foundation will match any gift size from a new donor with a total matching cap of $50,000. New gifts can include regular donations, seat sponsorships, or any other monetary contribution to the theatre. However, to qualify to be matched, the donor must have never before made a gift to the theatre.

“We are so grateful to The Eppes-Jefferson Foundation, Inc. for its support of The Park Theatre. This new donor incentive fundraising program, gives the power of 2X to every gift. We are confident we will reach the combined goal of $100,000 very quickly,” said Nancy Belletete, Vice President of The Park Theatre Board of Trustees.

The Eppes-Jefferson Foundation, Inc.’s long-time support for the reopening of The Park Theatre was earlier recognized with the naming of the main auditorium of the new performing arts center. When The Park Theatre opens later this year, the William David Eppes Auditorium will be home to a wide variety of live entertainment from local and regional performers as well as nationalizing touring music and theatre groups. Recent Hollywood, independent, foreign, documentary and classic films will be shown there as well.

New donors can make a gift, payable to The Park Theatre at P.O. Box 278, Jaffrey, NH 03452. Gifts can also be made on The Park Theatre’s website or by calling the executive office at (603) 532-9300. To qualify, all donations to the match must be received by May 2, 2020.

For 54 years, The Park Theatre was the center of community life in Jaffrey, presenting vaudeville and first-run movies. From 1922 until it closed, The Park Theatre was a major provider of entertainment for the Monadnock Region and north-central Massachusetts.