READING - Looking to build off of last year’s incredible “charity challenge” successes, Oak Ridge Road residents Bill and Priscilla Squires are back at it this winter with a New Year’s weekend “underwear” throw-down.
Promised a matching donation from two regional businesses, the two philanthropists are urging Reading residents to donate at least 700 pairs of new underwear during a clothing drive that begins on New Year’s Eve.
Those looking to partake in the effort are urged to purchase the clothing items and drop them off at the Squires family homestead at 26 Oak Ridge Road between Friday, Dec. 31 and Sunday, Jan. 2. As was the case last year, the charity organizers plan to keep local residents abreast of the donation numbers by maintaining a running tally on a sign that will be posted on the front lawn of the residence.
“Underwear is a necessity, not a luxury,” said Bill Squires, explaining the rationale behind the latest donation drive. “New clean underwear provides dignity and self-esteem, as well as physical comfort and good hygiene.”
“Having to make a decision about whether to put food on the table or buy new underwear is an unthinkable but unfortunate reality for many,” he added.
Those unable to make it to the store to purchase underwear in time for this weekend’s drive can still participate by dropping off a jar of peanut butter at the family’s home.
Last year, the Squire family and an army of local volunteers amassed massive caches of diapers, clothing, and food items after hosting a series of charity drives aimed at benefiting the less fortunate in Reading, Chelsea, and the Greater Lawrence area.
At the time hoping to help out communities that were hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the local couple says thousands of Massachusetts residents are still struggling to keep afloat as public health crisis continues and inflationary pressures drive-up the costs of basic goods.
“There are currently more than 20,000 people experiencing homelessness in Massachusetts, including 12,000 in families and 8,000 individuals. Each and every one could use a few pairs of new underwear. There are twenty shelters in Greater Boston alone that could use our support,” said Squires of the latest mission.
In advance of sponsoring last year’s “Peanut Butter Challenge” over New Year’s weekend, the Oak Ridge Road philanthropists managed to secure a corporate sponsorship from Teddie Peanut Butter, which promised to match Reading residents’ food donations.
This year, officials from Chelsea’s Engineer Design Associates and Championship Physical Therapy of Wintrop have similarly promised purchase up to 700 pairs of underwear in a similar matching sponsorship.
After hosting a pair of initial food drives in the spring of 2020, the Squires’ family switched to a challenge-based format last New Year’s Eve, when local residents were urged to donate at least 500 jars of peanut butter.
Ultimately securing the matching 500-container pledge from Teddie Peanut Butter, the local community shattered expectations by dropping off 1,600 jars of peanut butter and an unspecified number of jelly and Fluff donations during the three-day drive.
Months later, residents were asked to donate at least 10,000 diapers during a similar fundraising effort to benefit Chelsea charity La Colaborativa, San Lucas Episcopal Church in Chelsea, Lawrence Family Development Inc., and the Reading Food Pantry.
Yet again, the Reading community turned out in droves during the weekend long “diaper challenge” and brought more than 30,000 diapers to Oak Ridge Road.
The last major fundraiser was held in late May, when the Squires organized a clothing drive to benefit Lawrence’s Lazurus House. Volunteers trucked more than eight carloads of clothing up to the charity, which reportedly needed to stash a portion of the donations within an overflow container after running out of space in their main storage space.