Sheriff Thomas Bowler with Food Service Director Richard Millis. The Christian Center brings turkeys donated to the center to the House of Corrections, where they are cooked and carved for the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals the center provides.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Sheriff Thomas Bowler and his staff delivered cooked Thanksgiving turkey to the Christian Center on Wednesday.
The Christian Center is anticipating the distribution of at least 350 meals to people in need on Thanksgiving.
This has been a long-standing tradition between the sheriff's office and the Christian Center. For the last decade, staff and inmates at the Berkshire County House of Corrections have prepared Thanksgiving meals for hundreds of people at the center under the guidance of Food Service Director Richard Millis.
"I have been here for 10 years, and chef Millis has been cooking for 11 years, so the previous administration was doing this as well," Bowler said.
Turkeys are donated to the Christian Center, which hands them off to the jail to be cooked and prepared, and then the sheriff and his staff delivers them back to center to be distributed.
Millis and Bowler make it a priority each year to partner with different entities in the Berkshires to provide support through their kitchen, officers and inmates so residents in need have a nutritious meal on the holidays.
The inmates who assist Millis in the kitchen are ServSafe trained and certified through the Berkshire House of Correction's kitchen/culinary department. These inmates have a great deal of experience in the kitchen because once certified, they are led by Millis in preparing and cooking three meals a day.
Bowler said staff and inmates look forward to this collaboration every year because they appreciate doing this work and like to give back to the community.
Millis enjoys providing meals to a large audience in all facets of his life, he said. In his free time, he caters events throughout the Berkshires and enjoys evenings at home with his wife, two children, and their family dogs.
Bowler said he is very proud to partner with the Christian Center in providing meals to folks in need. Karen Ryan of the Christian Center, Bowler, and Millis communicate and collaborate to make this happen.
COVID-19 has not affected the Thanksgiving meal service very much, though staff and inmates are wearing proper personal protective equipment and social distancing.
"It's not so different for us as it is for the Christian Center," Bowler said.
Bowler said his team planned to carry on with this partnership whether COVID-19 was still a factor or not, as it is a safe and effective way to give back.
Because of the virus, the Christian Center has had to switch gears from offering an in-person Thanksgiving meal to offering takeout and delivery. In the past, center was crowded with folks enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together.
Turkeys are still being donated to center and, before Christmas, the jail will be cooking them and delivering another round of meals so that those in need can enjoy a home-cooked meal on Christmas as well.
"COVID-19 has been giving us challenges for the last 8 1/2 to nine months," Bowler said. "Regardless of COVID-19 this was going to take place anyway, so we weren't going to let COVID-19 not allow us to continue on with this partnership."
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