FALMOUTH — Dorothy Blanchette, president of the Falmouth Food Pantry, is a true-blue fan of the New England Patriots.
Now, she’s also a Patriots Difference Maker.
Blanchette will be honored at halftime during the team’s New Year’s Eve game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium.
She joins 14 others from across New England who’ve been honored this season as a Difference Maker of the Week.
There are a total of 16 weeks in the regular season, and each week the New England Patriots Foundation chooses “deserving volunteers who go above and beyond to support their local community and nonprofit organizations,” according to a team press release.
“Throughout the 2017 season, the foundation continues its mission of teaming with nonprofit organizations to educate fans about the need for volunteering, highlight deserving volunteers from across the region and seek to inspire Patriots fans to become lifelong volunteers,” the release said.
Blanchette was nominated for the award by her son Ethan, who is also a big Patriots fan and treats his mother to a game in Foxborough, Massachusetts, at least once every season. Blanchette already attended one game, so the New Year’s Eve game will be her second this season.
Her favorite player is Malcolm Butler, the cornerback who was the hero of SuperBowl 49 when he made an end-zone interception to clinch the win for the Patriots against the Seattle Seahawks.
She’s also a fan of quarterback Tom Brady, whom she called “everybody’s favorite.” She also likes Rob Gronkowski, the team’s outsized tight end.
Blanchette is such a huge fan of the Patriots that she never gave up during SuperBowl 51, when the team was down 28-3 at halftime, but then scored 31 unanswered points to win.
“Of course I stayed with them to the last minute,” she said of the Feb. 5 comeback, “even though I was not very happy at first and very sad” the team was losing.
While Blanchette is thrilled to be named a Difference Maker, she was trying to keep quiet about the honor, until word leaked out on Facebook. That’s when the congratulations from friends, food pantry volunteers and community members came pouring in.
Blanchette has served as president of the food pantry, which serves more than 500 families in Falmouth and the surrounding communities, for the past 10 years. She calls it a full-time job, but also wouldn’t have it any other way.
Blanchette was an elementary and middle school art teacher in Falmouth for 23 years before she retired. She said volunteering is both satisfying and worthwhile and she wishes more seniors would be willing to give their time and talents.
The pantry is open eight times a month in the former police station attached to the Town Hall on Falmouth Road. Current needs include cereal, both cold and hot, canned meats and fish, canned soup and canned fruit.
The pantry does much more than hand out food, though.
Blanchette said, “We really see ourselves as family partners (and) we recognize that when families encounter food shortages there’s likely lots of other issues going on, too.”
So the pantry helps however it can, whether that means assisting clients in a search for affordable housing, job skill training or medical help. The ultimate goal is to “help them get back on their feet,” Blanchette said.
“I have been involved in charity work since my teens because I could never bear to see people sad or in need,” she said. “The seed for starting the Falmouth Food Pantry came to me because of my concern for the difficulties a number of my students faced in obtaining basic necessities.”
In her work for the food pantry, Blanchette spends many hours writing grant proposals, requesting donations and doing the bookkeeping. She also organizes, cleans, gets needed supplies and helps out with the pantry’s home delivery program.
““Every day that I work to help others has been an adventure and a lesson in humility as I witness the courage of families who face enormous challenges,” Blanchette said. “I feel so blessed to be a part of their lives.”
Although Blanchette is a key figure at the food pantry, she said the organization wouldn’t be able to do all the good it accomplishes without the “wonderful volunteers” and “incredible support” it gets.
She particularly said the faith community, civic organizations, schools and the town as a whole are “all very much part of the pantry. We couldn’t do what we do without them.”
Blanchette is one member of a six-member board that oversees the food pantry; the organization also benefits from a cadre of volunteers that’s 125 strong.
That’s why she doesn’t think she’s particularly worthy of the Difference Maker award.
“There are so many people who do great things, like foster parents, why choose me?” she said.
But winning the award pleases her, she said, “because it gives voice to what we’re doing at the pantry and also shows that serving others is important. I really see this as giving recognition to the food pantry where so many are working so hard.”
Dorothy Blanchette, president of the Falmouth Food Pantry, has been recognized as a New England Patriots Difference Maker. She’s a huge fan of the team and will be honored during halftime on New Year’s Eve.