Written by Thom Randall in The Sun Community News on June 14, 2020
WARRENSBURG | A recent drive-through food pantry held in Warrensburg not only revealed area citizens’ profound community spirit, but it also portrayed to the event’s organizers the urgent needs of many people in the southern Adirondacks, sparking new outreach ideas.
The event, staffed by 108 volunteers including U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik and state Assemblyman Dan Stec, was held May 22 on the Warren County fairgrounds.
In less than two hours, a tractor-trailer full of 37,000 pounds of food was loaded into a total of 223 vehicles, 100 of which had been waiting an hour or more in line.
The event was organized by the Salvation Army in collaboration with North Country Ministry with support from the Tri-County United Way. The food was provided by the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.
Shannon Fonda of Johnsburg filled her mini-van with food for three other families besides her own.
“I was surprised — there were no junk pastries or unhealthy snacks — they passed out really high-quality food,” she said, noting that families received enough food for many weeks — 12 dozen eggs, many pounds of prime frozen meat and vegetables, fresh dairy products and produce, and other provisions that would make healthy meals.
Some of it was even gourmet — families received up to 16 or so wedges of the world-renowned cheeses from Nettle Meadow Goat Farm in Thurman.
Each family also received hand sanitizer, disinfectants, and multiple boxes of tissues — thousands of the latter were donated by Scott and Irving Tissue manufacturing plants in the tri-county area.
Fonda noted that many families in northern Warren and southern Essex counties do not have vehicles that could transport them to Queensbury where the last area food distribution was held.
“Many people in the southern Adirondacks don’t have access to public transportation, which is a huge problem,” she said.
Salvation Army Captain Leo Lloyd said he was surprised by the number of people that turned out for the distribution.
“The coronavirus pandemic has opened up my eyes to rural poverty and the extreme circumstances many people are living in,” he said following the event. Lloyd said he witnessed dire living conditions when his organization’s emergency response team recently conducted outreach to families in the southern Adirondacks.
“When several small pantries closed, we delivered food to families up through Northway Exit 27, and it was just an eye-popping experience — some families were housed in camping trailers, living on nothing.”
Lloyd said that after experiencing these trips into the Adirondacks, he is intending to launch his agency’s Pathway of Hope program to financially-distressed households.
“We’ve seen so much need to help families break this common cycle of multi-generational poverty,” he said.
In this program social services personnel work with each family member, helping them draft their own vision on a “pathway of hope,” stressing the importance of education, delving into a career path, and transitioning to new lifestyles. The program also assists people to qualify for home mortgages, or get into new affordable housing, he said.
“We’re excited about this new outreach effort,” he said.
Other area officials volunteering at the drive-through food distribution event included town supervisors Kevin Geraghty of Warrensburg, Craig Leggett of Chester and Matt Simpson of Horicon; Deputy Warrensburg supervisor John Alexander and his wife Lisa; Queensbury at-large Supervisor Rachel Seeber, Warren County Purchasing Agent Julie Butler, and county Public Information Officer Don Lehman.
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