Guest columnist Tim Anderson: The riches of the Amherst Survival Center

  • Amherst Survival Center volunteers Hannah Hart, right, and her children Willa, left, and Geir, all of Amherst, sort produce, bread and other food items that just arrived by van outside the North Amherst facility on Thursday morning, April 2, 2020. gazette file photo

Thursday, June 18, 2020

As anyone who lives in Amherst knows, our town has no shortage of riches. From the Emily Dickinson Museum to the hiking trails, the awesomeness of our universities to the charm of Sweetser Park, our town has so much going for it.

Another one of our treasures has been shining even brighter in our current times. I am speaking of Amherst Survival Center. I think most of us are familiar with the Survival Center. We’ve driven by it, we’ve read about it, perhaps you’ve donated it. You might have partaken of their services before.

The Survival Center has long played a vital role in our town. But what they’ve done since the pandemic began is truly remarkable. The center has completely retooled its operation, increased its food supply, and devised new ways to deliver to the community (both in-person and delivery), all while being mindful of the need for health safety.

The Survival Center didn’t skip a beat in going from their tried and true procedures to a new, socially distant-appropriate model. There was no transition; the ASC wasn’t going to make the needs of our community wait. And the ASC isn’t done; each day, its incredible staff is looking for ways to improve the operation.

It’s not like the “new normal” is set in stone; rather, the ASC is committed to finding the best ways to provide for those in need. That they are doing all of this at a time when those need helping has increased significantly is all the more remarkable.

I must add, I write this from a position of personal observation. When I say the Amherst Survival Center helps those in need, it’s not only those with food insecurity. When the world seemingly stopped back in March, I felt lost. When your job is predicated upon group activity and that group can’t meet as normal, it’s a crushing blow.

My wife contributes through her daily work as an ICU nurse at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, but I felt helpless. At her suggestion, I began volunteering at the Survival Center, and that has made all the difference. Even if I’m there for only a few hours, it still means something to me. The beautiful people at the ASC gave me a purpose again, which is invaluable in these times. We as a community have much to be thankful to the Amherst Survival Center. On a personal note, I am completely in their debt.

With the social restrictions in place, I don’t know how much volunteer hours are available at the Survival Center, but I would encourage anyone interested to check. It’s been among the most meaningful work I’ve ever done. And of course, everyone can support the Survival Center’s mission through a financial donation. It all goes to making a difference for our community.

UMass. The Hangar. First Congregational Church. Amethyst Brook. The Farmers Market. These, and so many countless more, are part of what makes Amherst a wonderful, unique place to live. Add the Amherst Survival Center to that list of what makes Amherst … well, Amherst. And it’s just another reason why I love our town and am proud to call it home.