BARRE — For Rick DeAngelis Thanksgiving Day was book-ended by things to be grateful for and the executive director of Good Samaritan Haven insists that he is.

He should be.

On Wednesday DeAngelis learned a supermarket chain had just made an out-sized donation to his organization and today those who park in the community where it has served homeless residents for nearly 35 years will start voluntarily feeding meters to help advance its mission.

That’s a pretty good week and when you throw in the 40 Thanksgiving dinners National Life donated to Good Samaritan Haven, DeAngelis said it ranks right up there in his soon-to-be two-year tenure

“We’re nearly overwhelmed with … the expression of caring and generosity from these different people and communities and businesses,” he said. “I’m very moved.”

DeAngelis headed into the holiday knowing Hannaford Supermarkets had just announced it was donating $25,000 to Good Samaritan Haven and knowing that a novel fundraiser that should net several thousand dollars between now and the end of the year would be launched today in Barre.

The best part, according to DeAngelis, is that neither was expected and both reflect a growing appreciation for an organization that is expanding, but not fast enough to meet the demand.

Since 1987, Good Samaritan Haven has operated central Vermont’s only homeless shelter on North Seminary Street in Barre. It just opened a second shelter in South Barre and recently acquired a Barre-Montpelier Road motel in Berlin that has been gutted and is in the process of being expanded and renovated. The latter project, dubbed “Good Sam at Twin City” — is a multi-million-dollar endeavor that will more than double the number of shelter beds currently available and create a hub of services for the unhoused.

What’s that got to do with Hannaford’s or parking meters in Barre?

Not much. However, DeAngelis said when Good Samaritan Haven opened its second shelter just up Route 14 from Hannaford’s, they sparked a conversation with the supermarket chain than ended on the eve of Thanksgiving.

“Hannaford’s reached out to us,” he said, noting a representative from the supermarket chain traded emails with Good Samaritan Haven’s development director, Betsy Reid.

The last of those emails arrived Wednesday afternoon and indicated a check for $15,000 was in the mail and $10,000 in gift cards was on the way.

The money is to be used to on a winter warming center and the gift cards can be spent at the store.

“That will probably meet our food needs (at the South Barre shelter) for a year,” DeAngelis said, suggesting he was blown away by a donation that far exceeded his expectations.

According to DeAngelis, he thought Hannaford’s might give the South Barre shelter access to dated but still good food and would have considered that a win given the cost of food and an aging pool of volunteers who have long prepared it for the Barre shelter.

That system isn’t sustainable as more shelter beds come on line — a reality DeAngelis said was the topic of a Wednesday meeting.

The takeaway?

The future will likely involve a mix of purchasing meals that are ready to eat and preparing some on site.

“This donation hit the sweet spot in that regard,” DeAngelis said of Hannaford’s beyond neighborly donation. “Honestly, I don’t know what to say.”

DeAngelis said the same is true of the fundraiser that started in Barre today and will run through the end of the year.

Parking is technically free during the holiday season, but as has become their custom city councilors are encouraging people to continue feeding the meters with this year’s proceeds going to Good Samaritan Haven.

The fundraiser typically nets between $3,000 and $5,000 because anyone can feed the meters, including folks on foot. Though there were two charities initially in the mix as recipients this year, former mayor Thomas Lauzon made the council’s choice easy by volunteering to contribute $5,000 to the Granite Center Garden Club. That left Good Samaritan Haven as the sole beneficiary of the parking program.

“That’s just another example of people just doing extraordinary things,” DeAngelis said, crediting Lauzon for his generosity and thanking the council for its support.

While DeAngelis said he welcomes the “tide of support and good will” that has accompanied increased awareness about the plight of the unhoused he doesn’t want to squander what he views as “a once in a generation” opportunity to address the problem.

“We’re getting all this generosity and we’ve got to parlay this into some real changes here,” he said, describing the shelter that just opened in South Barre and the one under construction in Berlin as a good start.

“I want to do more,” he said. “We need to be thinking about what can we do that is really going to make a difference in this community?”

While DeAngelis mulls Good Samaritan Haven’s future he is thankful for the unexpected support of good samaritans like the one who just wrote a large check and the many who will contribute loose change in Barre’s parking meters during the next month.

david.delcore @timesargus.com

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