FITCHBURG -- To meet the increased demand for utility and food assistance, United Way of North Central Massachusetts has made a $60,000 distribution to 15 local health and human services agencies.

"Unfortunately, due to the protracted economic downturn, the need for basic services continues to be high. The goal is to get resources to the frontline providers as quickly as possible, so we can reach as many families as possible, " commented Phil Grzewinski, president of United Way of North Central Massachusetts.

United Way of North Central Massachusetts created its Supplemental Basic Needs Fund to provide immediate emergency relief to individuals and families in the North Central Massachusetts region."In addition to providing much needed food assistance, the goal is to help those who will struggle to keep warm this winter," commented Grzewinski.

A survey by United Way of area non-profit service providers found more than half of those frontline service providers showed an increase in number of clients needing service. The following agencies received food assistance: Gardner CAC, Battered Women's Resources, Our Father's House, Fitchburg/Leominster Community Action Council, Montachusett Opportunity Council, Salvation Army, Cleghorn Neighborhood Center, Catholic Charities, Ginny's Helping Hand Food Pantry, Spanish American Center, Loaves and Fishes, Gardner VNA Community Services Pantry, Townsend Ecumenical Food Pantry and Winchendon Community Action Council. New England Farm Workers' Council received $30,000, which will be used for heating assistance.

Contributions may be made to the fund by calling 978-345-1577, going online at www.uwncm.org, or mailing to United Way of North Central Massachusetts, Attn: Supplemental Basic Needs Fund, 285 John Fitch Hwy, Fitchburg, MA 01420.

Residents who need to know where to go for emergency assistance can call 2-1-1, which is a free call, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or visit www.uwncm.org to access their website. The Mass 2-1-1 hotline is prepared to connect callers with help for basic needs and other health and human services.

United Way of North Central Massachusetts serves the communities of Ashburnham, Ashby, Ayer, Barre, Devens, Fitchburg, Gardner, Groton, Harvard, Hubbardston, Leominster, Littleton, Lunenburg, Pepperell, Shirley, Templeton, Townsend, Westminster and Winchendon.