Salem Film Fest donates $3,000 to two North Shore charities

This article was published 2 year(s) ago.

Members of Salem Pantry accept a $1,500 check donated by Salem Film Fest. (Courtesy Photo/Joe Cultrera)

SALEM — Salem Film Fest, one of New England’s largest all-documentary film festivals, donated $3,000 using funds raised from its March Virtual Film Festival ticket sales to Salem-based charities Behind You, Inc., and the Salem Pantry. 

SFF co-founder and festival director Joe Cultrera said that thanks to reduced costs from 2021’s virtual festival, this is the first year SFF has been able to donate its ticket proceeds to local charities. 

“We decided we wanted to (donate) to one or two local charities, and we thought the food pantry made sense because it was hitting the community at such a basic level — anybody could access it,” Cultrera said. “Behind You was also a good cause that connected with people from (the restaurant) industry, which is a really vital industry in Salem right now.”

In 2020, the Salem Pantry served 2,200 households — a total of 6,500 individuals — distributing 750,000 pounds of food. 

According to Cultrera, in 2021, the organization expects growth and demand to reach 3,300 households — a total of 9,700 individuals — and plans to distribute 1.2 million pounds of food. 

“We’re thrilled to have partnered with Salem Film Fest this year,” said Executive Director Robyn Burns. “Collaboration is at the core of the Salem Pantry’s work, and partnering with Salem Film Fest during COVID provided a timely opportunity to expand our reach within Salem and the North Shore.”

Behind You, Inc. is an organization whose mission is to provide financial assistance to food service employees in Beverly, Lynn, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott who are unable to work due to illness or injury. 

The organization’s COVID-19 emergency fund disbursed $65,000 to 263 individuals who found themselves out of work due to pandemic restrictions. 

Eligible individuals also received $250 stipends, which served as immediate assistance. In total, over 79 unique businesses — including bars, breweries, cafes, distilleries and restaurants — have been supported through these stipends. 

“At the root of Behind You’s purpose is a commitment to community, and we are grateful that Salem Film Fest chose to reinvest proceeds of their event directly back to the community to aid us in our efforts to support the service industry,” said Behind You, Inc. Vice President Erin Truex. 

SFF Program Director Jeff Schmidt added: “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted so many people in our community, and as a community organization ourselves, festival organizers felt it was important for us to lend a hand to those in need.”

Although this was the first year SFF donated to local charities, Cultrera doubts it will be the last. 

“I think this is a really good thing to do, and because the festival is really established now, we have a better estimate of what we can do financially,” he said. “I think we can manage our funds in a way where we can contribute to different charitable groups each year.”

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