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TOWNSEND — I was invited in to see what the Townsend Ecumenical Outreach is all about and how they are serving the needs of Townsend residents.

Jim Clish and Lee Hughes, who run the outreach program, gave me a tour of the large back storage room filled to capacity with the three types of categories of food available to those who need assistance. Clish and Hughes rent a truck from Barrows to collect up to 6,000 pounds of food needed from the West Roxbury food bank. The front part of the building houses the Clothes Closet where there is no charge for any items taken, but donations are always welcome. The building is staffed by all volunteers and open every Tuesday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Every third Saturday of each month they offer food distribution to Townsend residents only.

The program will be holding its first open house on Saturday, May 22 from to 3 p.m. The outreach center is located at 82 Bayberry Hill Road in West Townsend; it is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that was established in 1984. The program provides emergency and temporary assistance to Townsend residents that are in need. The needs of the residents have grown and so has the group’s programs.

Townsend Ecumenical Outreach offers monthly food distributions, a free clothing exchange for residents of Townsend and surrounding communities, short-term aid and fuel assistance, emergency aid to fire victims, holiday food baskets, and back-to-school supplies.

Clish, Hughes and many other volunteers help keep the program alive and running for those who need assistance.

The program is currently assisting 94 families, totaling 226 individuals, in Townsend.

“There is no hope in the near future for families to get off assistance. People with higher education are without jobs or have lost them,” said Hughes. “We know people are proud and don’t want assistance until it’s absolutely necessary. We are reaching out to those families. We have to protect the families that we serve and the needs have increased 20 percent this past year alone.”

Hughes feels the community has supported the outreach program as well. He said local churches support the center with food-collection drives and the Boy and Girl Scouts do a food drive every November. The schools regularly set up collection boxes and the Parent-Teacher Organization members deliver clothing or food as they get full.

Monica Kleeman, one of the program’s volunteers, believes people know there is a program but don’t know how to get in.

Clish, Hughes and Kleeman feel an open house will allow the community to see and feel what this organization does and draw awareness to those families who may need assistance down the road.

“The TEO is always looking for volunteers, even if it’s just an hour a week. Any kind of help, whether by volunteering or donations are, always welcome,” said Kleeman.

Clish and Hughes would like to get a community garden off the ground this coming year. With land available and cleared by Gary Shepherd of Townsend, the program is looking for volunteers for this project.

“It ties in with what we do here. The food that is grown could be used for distribution. We have the land; let’s put it to good use,” said Hughes. The hope down the road is to have the outreach center open every day to serve the community’s needs better. For more information, please visit or call 597-2209 or 597-6422 after 4 p.m. to speak with Jim Clish.