Many local food service organizations will be better positioned to give now that they’ve received support from the Autosaver Group.

The group of auto dealers, owned by Abel Toll, of Danville, is donating $100,000 to organizations that provide food to people in need.

“With all the news of food insecurity and more people in line for food shelves and kids not getting meals at school because they’re not at school, we thought it was a time we’d like to do something fairly substantial and do as much as we could in the towns we have dealerships,” said Toll.

It took a team effort to identify organizations in the dealership communities as Autosaver Group is large and has dealerships in three states. The group identified 21 organizations to support.

Toll said it was important to work directly with the organizations to make sure every dollar was being used to help.

“We wanted to get the money to the end-user instead of donating to some big organization and have it filtered down to them,” he said.

There are 15 dealerships in the group, and more than half of them are located in this region. Three dealerships are in Littleton, N.H. Four are in St. Johnsbury and one is in Derby.

“A large portion of the money went to the Northeast Kingdom and to the Littleton, Woodsville area,” said Toll. “It’s where we started and it’s where I live.”

A few of the food services organizations benefiting locally by the Autosaver gift are the West Barnet Senior Meal Site, the Good Shepherd Food Pantry in Woodsville, N.H., the Open Door Thrift Store and Food Shelf in Danville, the St. Johnsbury Meals on Wheels, the Kingdom Community Services Food Shelf and the Lyndon Area Food Shelf.

“It’s fantastic,” said Deb Minor, about the $5,000 the Lyndon Area Food Shelf will get from the donation. Minor runs the food shelf and said the money will be a big help just as a source of support from the federal CARES Act money comes to an end. “(The Autosaver support) is going to give me a little bit of a cushion for the months I still have ahead of me,” she said.

On Friday, Minor and a crew of helpers that included Boy Scouts from the local Troop 30, distributed 39 Christmas boxes full of food to local people. The boxes held many items with some of them donated. Bourne’s Energy donated turkeys. Northeast Agricultural Sales donated potatoes and squash, and Riverside School donated mini loaves of pumpkin bread.

Lani Wilson, of Lyndon, was grateful as two scouts carried food to her car outside the food shelf on Elm Street in Lyndonville on Friday. She said the food shelf is a big support to her and her husband.

“We just got to the point where we needed a little help,” she said.

Another recipient of food shelf support Friday was Cheryl Warner, of Lyndonville.

“Deb and (others at the food shelf) have been very good to us and helped us any way they could,” she said.

The Lyndon food shelf serves people who live in Lyndon, Kirby, Newark, Sutton, East Haven, Sheffield and Wheelock. Minor said the need is significant, and the financial impacts of COVID 19 has increased dependency on the food shelf.

The support to the food shelf by the Autosaver Group was communicated to Minor by Shelly Martin, sales manager at Quality Mitsubishi. Martin had the pleasure of contacting several local food services groups to share the news of the donation.

“I got to make six of those calls, so I was really fortunate wasn’t I?” she said. “It was awesome. It makes a big impact and definitely helps them with their ability to do what they do.”

Diane Coburn, who directs the St. Johnsbury Meals on Wheels program, was the recipient of one of those calls.

“You can’t print what I said,” Coburn said and then recalled what she told Martin (slightly filtered for print): ‘Holy Sh— thank you so much!’”

Martin told Coburn the meal program was getting $7,500 from the Autosaver Group.

“This definitely helps us to move forward and sustains our budget as well,” said Coburn, who has been running Meals on Wheels in St. Johnsbury for 22 years. By the end of the year, Coburn said, the program will have given over 42,000 meals.

“The demand went through the roof when COVID hit,” she said.

Toll said he was glad Autosaver Group could help out.

“We’ve always given to worthy causes, but this year I thought we should do something significant,” said Toll. He credited his dealerships’ staff for making it possible to offer so much support in area communities.

Still, he said, they would have liked to do even more.

“I’m sure there are other people who are just as deserving, but we have to do the best we could with what we have,” said Toll.

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