Dartmouth YMCA food pantry provides toys, groceries for needy families

Dec 20, 2022

Every week, the Dartmouth YMCA’s Full Plate Project helps hundreds of local families in need by distributing groceries to those dealing with food insecurity.

But with the holiday season in full swing, the organization partnered with Dartmouth United Outreach to brighten Christmas mornings — as well as filling the table for Christmas dinner.

For the second year in a row, the two local charities joined forces to distribute toys to children who otherwise would have had nothing to open when they got up on Sunday. The distribution happened alongside the food pantry on Tuesday, Dec. 20.

Debbie Ashworth, who organized the toy drive, said that it has gotten much larger in the two years since joining with the YMCA.

She said that three years ago, when the drive was hosted by Smith Mills Church, they were able to provide toys to about 80 children. Last year, in their first year with the YMCA, that number shot up to 250 kids.

This year, the organization smashed its previous records, giving out toys to 600 children from over 170 families.

Ashworth said that families whose kids wouldn’t otherwise get a gift could fill out a form detailing the ages and interests of their children and the organization would do the rest.

She added that the toys were donated from a variety of businesses, charities, and individuals, including: Hasbro, the Dartmouth Target, Conquerors for Christ Church, and several volunteers from the Full Plate Project.

“We got donations from all over,” Ashworth said.

Even some of the food pantry users got into the giving spirit.

“A lot of our recipients here donated toys,” she said. “They get food week after week and they want to give back.”

The toy distribution happened alongside the food pantry, which also set a new record on the day, providing groceries for 709 local households, according to Sy Yules, who oversees the project.

Yules added that the group had 45 volunteers “helping make it run very smoothly.”

“It’s a well oiled machine,” he said.

The Full Plate Project distributes food to those in need each Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Dartmouth Y, located at 276 Gulf Road. To date, it has distributed over 1.5 million pounds of food this year, Yule said.

To learn more, or to volunteer, visit ymcasouthcoast.org/programs/full-plate-project.