Podcast: Common Ground Café Plans to Provide Meals and Gifts to Homeless this Christmas

Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dougan Sherwood, right, presents Business of the Month Award last August to Doug Little and Ron Mills of Common Ground. (Courtesy photograph.)

The holiday season brings out the best in people and organizations who are interested in helping others. Among the many groups in Haverhill is Common Ground Café and food pantry at 194 Winter St.

Founder Ron Mills, a recent guest on WHAV’s morning program, says Common Grounds’ plan for Christmas is to provide homeless individuals a gift, along with a meal. The women will be getting a purse, while the men will be receiving a drawstring bag.

“In that bag will be personal hygiene items, socks, hats, gloves, hand warmers. Then, in addition to that, we will be able to give away a coat to anybody who needs it. The service clubs within the city did a coat drive for us and Peter Carbone at EZ Way Cleaners cleaned the coats. The coats were all new or slightly used, so we have this assortment of jackets and coats that we will be giving away along with this Christmas present to each and every one of them,” he says.

He spoke about how the organization was able to help at Thanksgiving, with four cooks volunteering to prepare the meal.

“The homeless folks were able to come to our building and receive a complete Thanksgiving dinner. The difficulty that we had was, because of the limitations, we could not let them into the building. So, we prepared grab-and-go and, unfortunately, a number of them don’t have a place to go. So, working with the public health nurse for the city of Haverhill, we were allowed to use our patio facility which was outside the back of our building, which can seat up to 16 people at a time,” he adds.

Mills said they also had use of a second location, at the Just Church over the A-1 Deli on Merrimack Street in downtown Haverhill. Help was also available for low-income families.

“Now, for some of the low-income families that are in sheltered situations, and small apartments within the city, we were able to give them a turkey. Then, we gave them gift cards to go get all the fixings at Market Basket, and that was funded by a generous donation to help us go and purchase these gift cards. So, we helped about 35 families in addition to the homeless on that particular day.”

Mills says donations of money, food and clothing, along with volunteer help, are always needed. Common Ground Café food pantry and thrift shop is open every day of the year at 194 Winter St., serving people in need in Haverhill. Mills explains the city has a poverty rate of approximately 25% of the population. Ways to give are listed online at CGMCafe.org.

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