Long-time community leader Andy Burns, who died Oct. 30, 2020, was instrumental in the founding of the Town-Gown Fund in 2001. He had been a member of the committee that has awarded more than $843,000 to non-profit organizations and government agencies in the Clinton and Kirkland community during the past two decades.
“Andy’s love for his hometown was exceeded only by the energy he put forth to make it better,” said Hamilton President David Wippman, who also chairs the Town-Gown Committee. “I know this grant would have meant a lot to him. The committee unanimously supported this tribute in his memory.”
Burns was a 1978 Hamilton graduate and the force behind Clinton being declared Kraft Hockeyville USA in 2018. The recognition coincided with the centennial observance of organized hockey in Clinton and included donations of Kraft food products to the Country Pantry. A Clinton native, Burns was presented with the Jeff Little ’71 Volunteer of the Year Award by the Hamilton Alumni Association in 2019.
The Country Pantry provides non-perishable food and fresh produce monthly to families and individuals in Clinton, Clark Mills, and Westmoreland. Requests for assistance increased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, the Country Pantry served an average of 243 individuals and families each month. That number increased to 794 in 2020.
Mary Zimbler, who runs the Country Pantry, said 641 families were served at last month’s distribution, including 73 who sought food assistance for the first time. Each family receives approximately 40 to 44 pounds of food depending on family size. It is not uncommon, Zimbler said, to have two tractor trailers fully stocked with food for one distribution.
The fully volunteer-run, ecumenical food pantry is supported by more than 30 local churches, businesses, and community organizations.
After suspending its grant-making program in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Hamilton College Town-Gown Fund recently invited proposals from 22 organizations for possible funding later this spring. The grant to the Country Pantry in honor of Burns is a special award by the committee.