Florence Bank Helps Ice Out Hunger in the Valley Through Partnership with UMass Sports Properties and Massachusetts Hockey

Florence Bank is pleased to be partnering with UMass Sports Properties and the University of Massachusetts Hockey team to Ice Out Hunger in the Valley, and through this innovative new program, the bank will provide $9,500 in $500 grants to each of 19 food pantries across the region. 

A different food pantry will be highlighted during the first intermission at each Massachusetts home game, and a lucky fan will be chosen to ride on the Mullins Center’s Zamboni, which has been wrapped with Florence Bank’s branding. Riders are selected randomly after submitting an entry form at umassathletics.com/Ride.

Each of the following food pantries will receive $500: Amherst Survival Center, Easthampton Community Center, Friends of Hampshire County Homeless Individuals, The Parish Cupboard in West Springfield, Northampton Survival Center, Easthampton Congregational Church, Not Bread Alone soup kitchen in Amherst, Gray House in Springfield, Margaret’s Pantry at Providence Ministries in Holyoke, Helping Hands Cupboard Food Pantry in Belchertown, Neighbors Helping Neighbors in South Hadley, Chesterfield Community Food Cupboard, Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen in Chicopee, Most Holy Redeemer Church in Hadley, Southampton Community Cupboard, Springfield Rescue Mission, Center for Self Reliance in Greenfield, Manna Soup Kitchen in Northampton and Open Pantry Community Services in Springfield.

Andrew Stuebner, general manager for UMass Sports Properties, the multi-media rights holder for Massachusetts Athletics, says the partnership with Florence Bank has been developed over the past few years with Jim Hickey, the bank’s senior vice president / marketing director

“In exploring high-impact ways to complement Florence Bank’s key objectives of building relationships with local organizations and supporting the communities the bank serves, the concept came to light thanks in large part to Jim,” Andrew says, adding that the Rider of the Game and Ice Out Hunger themes evolved to ensure a philanthropic component. “It’s a win-win promotion, providing lifelong memories for lucky fans while supporting those in need.” 

Matt Garrity, the president and CEO of Florence Bank, says, “Pantry leaders have told us that the funds we are providing will cover the cost of tens of thousands of meals for people in need in the Valley. The success of the Massachusetts Hockey program provides us with a unique way to communicate the issue of food insecurity to folks in the Pioneer Valley. We’re pleased to partner with UMass to help Ice Out Hunger in the Valley.”

In October, Robin Bialecki, executive director of the Easthampton Community Center, attended a home game with her husband, daughter and son-in-law as the nonprofit sponsored by that game. She accepted the $500 check out on the ice at intermission, and says the funds will cover the cost of over 1,000 meals. 

Easthampton Community Center currently offers support to 3,712 families and serves almost 10,000 people every month. The nonprofit serves 58 towns in Western Mass, offering gluten-free meals and allergy-free meals; many people served are referred from doctors’ offices in Western Mass, Robin says.

“A thousand people will get to eat dinner because of this partnership,” she says, adding that Florence Bank customers often successfully vote for the organization to receive a Customers’ Choice Community Grant, and the bank itself is a top sponsor of the center’s 5K road race each Thanksgiving. 

“The bank is amazing. It helps us serve other communities and feed more people,” Robin says, adding, “Florence Bank’s commitment to the communities it serves is just incredible.”

Mary Lou Guarnera, executive director of Neighbors Helping Neighbors in South Hadley, will attend the Jan. 5, 2024, Minutemen hockey game to enjoy the action on the ice and accept the $500 grant that will help her organization carry out its mission to feed people in need, improve community health and advocate about food insecurity and nutrition. Each granted dollar will pay for three meals, she says.

“We are client choice, meaning folks choose what they want from a menu,” she explains. “They stay in their cars, and when their order has been filled, we put it in their car for them. Our customers are happily surprised to see how much food they receive, as well as the variety.”

Last year, there were roughly 15,250 visits to the Neighbors Helping Neighbors food pantry. 

Mary Lou says she is a follower of all regional hockey teams because hockey is well-respected in her family—since her brother’s hockey buddy helped diagnose an arterial blockage that led to a quadruple bypass. Playing the sport over the years also developed ancillary vessels around his heart, doing the work of the clogged arteries. “My brother is alive because he plays hockey, and he is 70.” 

“Florence Bank should be congratulated not only on the creativity of the concept of Ice Out Hunger but for its involvement in the community,” Mary Lou says. “We are deeply appreciative of the donation, and it will benefit many people.”

The Massachusetts Minutemen Hockey season is in full swing with the team currently ranked number 11 in the country and playing what Andrew calls “a high-energy brand of hockey.” The game schedule can be found at umassathletics.com/sports/mens-ice-hockey/schedule.