After 34 years, the Amherst Survival Center (ASC) has moved to a new location at 138 Sunderland Road in Amherst. The ASC serves people from all over Western Massachusetts. You can reach them by calling by (413) 549-3968. You can click here to learn the program’s hours.
They maintain a food pantry which is only available to residents of Amherst, Belchertown, Deerfield, Granby, Hadley, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury, South Deerfield, South Hadley, Sunderland, and Whately. Please note this is the only program that requires residency in certain towns. The rest of the ASC programs are open to anyone, regardless of residency or income. One of the biggest access improvements over the old space is that someone in a wheelchair can now shop at the food pantry like everyone else. Previously, a wheelchair user could not get around in the pantry to choose their own items. According to UMass/Amherst student and current volunteer Emily Teverna correcting a pantry that worked “really dysfunctionally” into one that was usable by every client was a big item when they moved and were redesigning their new space. Pet food and one personal care item (such as soap or toothpaste) are also available on a monthly basis. Note: once you establish an account, you can designate other people to pick up you monthly allotment. They just need identification.
The ASC also offers a daily food distribution featuring bread, fruit, vegetables, and dessert. To access this program, an individual must get a number from the volunteer who is in charge of distribution that day. There are two distribution times. The first is between 11 a.m. and noon. The second begins at 12:30 p.m. Lunch is served on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday between noon and 1 p.m. The meal features at least two meat based proteins, plus a vegetarian one, as well as options for vegans. The meal is completed with a variety of vegetables, breads, salads, and dessert.
You may have a second helping beginning at 12:30 p.m. The ASC also offers hot lunch to go and allows people to take leftovers with them beginning at 12:45 p.m..
Additionally, two, usually different, family friendly movies are shown on Thursday evenings. The first begins at 3p.m. and the second starts at 5 p.m.. The ASC provides a light dinner on those nights as well. The dinner runs from 5 to 6p.m..
The free store allows every person in ASC to take one small bag of items daily. While the store contains too many items to list here, highlights include: clothing of all sizes, housewares, books, and toys. If you want something the store doesn’t have in stock, you can write your name and contact information down in the request book and someone will contact you when it’s available. Note: you can have someone else pick up items for you in the free store, but they are still limited to only one bag , in total. Therefore, they may not be able to get everything you need and everything they need in one day.
The ASC’s new location features a vastly improved wheelchair accessible bathroom and a roll-in shower that occupies its own room! The director, Tracey Levy, says that people who lack roll-in showers at home are welcome to use the ASC facilities. It is requested that if you need a shower you arrive a half an hour before the ASC is due to close. Please see Tracy if you need towels or toiletries. When you’re done showering, remember to take everything with you, as the ASC will dispose of anything left behind. There is a bench in the shower for people who cannot stand to bathe, but there is no shower wheelchair. Bring that along if needed.
If you are homeless, the ASC can help you look your best. They provide laundry machines and a locker to store clean clothes. You are allowed to wash one load of laundry a week and requested not to leave the ASC when you have clothes in the machine. Machines are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a sign-up sheet.
The ASC also offers a free health clinic on Mondays from 12:30 p.m. Until 2 p.m., as well as on Thursday from 5 to 6 p.m.. Patients can sign up a half an hour before the clinic begins and must do so 15 minutes before it ends. The doctor will see everyone who is signed up by that time.
Throughout the week there are representatives of different service agencies at the ASC. These people can help you apply for housing, SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), and health insurance, among other things. The front desk can tell you what agency is available on what day and where to find their representative.
The ASC could not survive without volunteers. One of the best features of the organization is that they have drop in volunteer positions. If you happen to be in Amherst with nothing to do one day, stop by the ASC and they will be happy to put you to work. If you’re interested in a permanent volunteer shift please speak to Tracey directly.
It is now much easier for people in wheelchairs to navigate the ASC and, therefore, both volunteer and receive services. A wheelchair user now can negotiate the kitchen, the pantry, and the free store with ease. A volunteer in a wheelchair can even wash dishes!
In fact, the only program a wheelchair user couldn’t participate in is the new, trial, free taxi service on Tuesdays from the North Amherst bus stop between the hours of1 1a.m. and 1 p.m. to the ASC. If you have a power chair or simply can’t get out of yours, you would have to roll the approximately 10 minutes to the ASC from that bus stop. While Tracy says she cannot commit to providing subsidy van fares on those days to people who use the paratransit to come to the ASC on those Tuesdays at those times, she’s open to having a conversation with anyone who would like to call and suggest a solution.
According to Tracey, the ASC is much more accessible because “it’s the law now and we would’ve wanted to do it anyway!” If only other organizations followed so closely the letter and spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
. So, go donate those hot pink pajamas your grandma got you at Christmas. Teach a workshop and share your passion. Take a shower. Serve lunch! Get help! As Jane Holappa, ASC founder said, “Through sharing there is enough for everyone.”