“Whatever you need, just grab it.” These words are uttered regularly by Harvest on Vine Director Tom MacDonald to Charlestown residents as they line up to receive food from the pantry. The sentiment was no different on Jan. 28, when Harvest on Vine held a special food distribution for the National Park Service employees who had been dealing with the effects of the government shutdown.
MacDonald said that he picked up 5,500 pounds of food with the help of a truck and driver from Boston Beer Works just for this special distribution. Harvest on Vine usually goes through 7,000-8,000 pounds of food for their regular bimonthly distributions.
Though the government had reopened by the time the distribution was set to happen, there was no shortage of gratitude from the National Park Service workers.
“Let me just say how gracious Harvest on the Vine and the community of Charlestown has been,” Michael Creasey, Superintendent at the National Parks of Boston, said to a large group of volunteers and several Park Service employees. He said that MacDonald reached out to him right away after the government had shut down in December and told him that Harvest on Vine would like to help the employees in any way they could.
“And I can’t tell you how that meant so much to us,” Creasey said. “There was only a couple of us working bare bones in the parks themselves.”
The National Park Service oversees three national parks in Boston: Boston National Historical Park, Boston African American National Historic Site, and the Boston Harbor Islands. In Charlestown itself, the Park Service oversees the Bunker Hill Monument and the Navy Yard.
“It’s a great honor for the National Park Service to be in this city and to do what we’re able to do, and that’s tell the story of how this nation was born and how we can tell those stories of history with relevance to today,” Creasey said.
Creasey also thanked many others who have supported the Park Service throughout the month-long government shutdown. He said that he received “incredible support” from Councilor Althea Garrison, as well as Boston Parks Commissioner Chris Cook, who arranged to have the Park Service trash dumpsters emptied.
Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Leo Roy also offered assistance to Creasey and his employees, and nonprofit CharlestownDogs did the same.
“So many people reached out with so many kind words,” Creasey said, which he was able to relay to his nearly 100 employees at their staff meeting on Monday. “I can tell you how good they felt about being based here in Charlestown and being able to feel that support from the community, so from the state and for the local community and our nonprofit friends and our city, thank you all for just supporting the National Park Service.”
Harvest on Vine was able to serve a handful of National Park Service employees who came through the pantry on Monday afternoon, and several others came to load up SUVs to make deliveries to around 30 people who could not make it in person.
Those who came through shook the hands of every single volunteer with sincere appreciation. One of those employees was Alex Sanchez, who said “it’s been hell” this past month with no income. “I really wasn’t anticipating for this shutdown to go on for this long,” he said. “I probably should have taken a lot more precaution.” Sanchez has two boys, who he had to feed ramen noodle soup until this past weekend. “My family’s down to like zero bucks, no food, so this is highly appreciated big time.”
MacDonald said that while they were eager to help out, “we didn’t want to overstep it.” Volunteer Donna O’Brien added that it was about “protecting the dignity of the people that we serve.”
That not only goes for the National Park Service employees, but that’s the goal for every food distribution that Harvest on Vine holds. “I am just so filled with gratitude for the Charlestown community,” MacDonald said. “Every time we ask for help, the Charlestown community steps up tenfold.”