Saturday December 1, 2012

GREENFIELD, Mass. -- If you’re a real movie buff, you’ve probably always wanted to make the scene at the world famous film festival in Cannes, France.

Well, thanks to a rather long list of people, you can (no pun intended) attend a movie celebration known as The Cans Film Festival Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 6 p.m. at the Greenfield Garden Cinemas located at 361 Main St. George Gohl, the manager of the theater, the Vietnam Veterans of America (Chapter 232), Radio Station WHAI, and Radio Station WPVQ/Bear Country are combining to stage this big event.

They’re collecting non-perishable cans and boxes of food for those in need during the holidays. With a donation of five cans or boxes, a contributor will receive a free admission to the first showing at any of the cinema’s seven theaters, until the film is sold out.

Three well-known local announcers will be on hand to meet food donors in the theater lobby: Jay Fidanza of WHAI, Bobby "C" of WHAI/WPVQ, and high school football play-by-play man Jeff Terrell of Bear Country.

The donated cans and boxes will be handed over to Dino Schnelle, Director of the Center for Self Reliance, and Peggy Rockwood, who runs the food pantry at The Salvation Army.

"This is a wonderful community effort," said Dave Lewis, the president of Chapter 232 of the Vietnam Veterans of America. This is the 18th year of the food drive, the 13th at the Greenfield Garden Cinemas, according to Lewis. The event was held at the Hoyt Theaters at the Big Y Plaza, which are now closed, for its first five years.

Lewis is deeply appreciative of all those who volunteer their help for this event, and sees Gohl’s help as invaluable. "George is a terrific guy," said Lewis, "very much concerned with his community. When the old theaters closed, he welcomed us with open arms."

At one time, the participants took the donated food from the Garden Cinemas to the American Legion for distribution to the Center for Self Reliance and The Salvation Army. "It really got to be quite a task," recalled Dave, "moving all that food. That’s why the recipients are now present at the food collection site."

Lewis, at 69 years of age, is one of the busiest folks in the town of Greenfield. He is Commander of the Lieutenant John J. Galvin American Legion Post 81 along with serving as the head of the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

An amiable gentleman, Dave smiles as he reflects on his role as organizer for The Cans Film Festival. "I guess you could call me chaos coordinator," he smiled, "as people come through the doors at the Garden and give us their food on the night of this event. And we’re putting it in boxes and passing it back to representatives of the CSR and The Salvation Army.

"We get to the theater about 5 p.m. or so and get ourselves in place for the rush. We see many of the same people year after year. Occasionally, we see someone we haven’t seen in years and that’s a treat. And, of course, we love to see new people coming out to support our program. People can help an important cause and feel good about themselves, too."

According to Feeding America, the frightening scepter of hunger is a fact for one out of every six people. "We started out to help needy vets," said Lewis, "but we found out that there are so many people who need some help. Last year we completely filled the pantry at The Salvation Army. It really impressed me when I walked in two days later and the shelves were completely filled, thanks to The Cans Film Festival.

"There are people who will bring in a case of food to the festival, such as ‘mac and cheese.’ The overall generosity of our contributors is just overwhelming. People tell us, after they give, how good they feel about themselves. People want to help their neighbors and their fellow members of the community who are in need."

Dave Lewis is a native of Haverhill, Mass.  He graduated from Haverhill High School in 1962 before earning a degree from the Cambridge School of Broadcasting in Boston. Two weeks after his graduation from the latter, he received his draft notice and went to school to train in radar at Biloxi, MI before spending three and a half years in the Air Force. Upon discharge, Lewis began a career in retail and later worked in insurance sales and in administrative work in utilities.

Lewis tips his hat to his group of volunteers for The Cans Film Festival, including Russ Newton who handles public relations for the local chapter of the Vietnam Vets of America.

For more info about the Cans Film Festival, call Dave at 413-772-0857 or 413-522- 7292.