Portsmouth Partnership Music Hall community helps food insecure

Opera music

They didn’t fill all the seats inside the iconic Music Hall this year, but they could have, as at last count they had collected over 15,000 pounds of donated food.

The generous Seacoast community went above and beyond as the 7th annual Fill the Hall event once again exceeded expectations. The collection is the result of a partnership between Music Hall and Gather, the food bank in the Seacoast region.

“It was a great day,” said Deb Anthony, Executive Director of Gather. “It’s amazing how much generosity there is in this community.”

During the day, the Hannaford grocery store in Portsmouth asked each customer if they would like to purchase a bag of food to donate. Anthony said they delivered 200 bags. It was just one example.

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Deb Anthony, Executive Director of Gather and Monte Bohanan, Director of Communications at Music Hall enjoying a quick rest at Saturday's Fill the Hall event, a non-perishable food drive for the town's food bank.

Due to COVID restrictions, items were collected outside, but people were still welcome inside the iconic Music Hall and to take a look. The group also accepted donations of money which came throughout the day.

“We brought in just under $ 50,000,” said Anthony. “If we reach $ 50,000, we will get a match of $ 7,500. We are collecting donations until the end of next week, so hopefully we can reach the matching donation count.”

Anyone wishing to help achieve this goal can contact https://gather.networkforgood.com/projects/83383-gather-2019-2020.

Gather’s food and financial support programs such as Meals 4 Kids, Meals 4 Seniors, Community Supported Agriculture, Pantry to Table and Gather’s Pantry Market.

“We usually start the children’s program for the summer vacation,” Anthony said. “This year we have been doing this since last March when COVID hit. We are also part of the food supplier network and we work with over 40 small pantries. We also have mobile units now. They are visiting Portsmouth , but also Rochester, Somersworth, Kittery, Hampton and Seabrook. “

A small army of volunteers continued to move food donations to a fleet of trucks waiting to transport items to Gather Saturday, as part of the Fill the Hall event at Music Hall.

Shadowing Fill the Hall were the staff at the Rochester Opera House, who are planning a mirror event, “Pack the House”.

Jennifer Towle, opera education director, said her first Pack the House will take place on Saturday, October 9 at 31 Wakefield St.

“It will benefit four organizations in the Rochester area: Gather, Sharefund, End 68 Hours of Hunger and Grace Community Church Food Pantry,” Towle said. “All food donated and money raised will be split evenly among the four – the Opera is happy to help our community partners as they head into the season when they need it most.”

The goal for the opera is to fill each seat with donated food bags.

“People will be able to go up to the opera house to place their food themselves, or just drop off the sidewalk for convenience,” Towle said. “We are looking for volunteers to collect in their neighborhoods, businesses to sponsor and donate, and volunteers to help us on the day of. We hope to make this a community wide event with music. live, activities for the family and to celebrate our community coming together to support each other. “