By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
RAVENA — Local businesses and charitable groups pooled their resources and efforts to help 100 local families have a bit more joy this holiday season.
The “Feed Your Mind, Feed A Family” program was started in the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk community in 2021 by Capital Region Independent Media, which publishes the Ravena News-Herald.
One hundred turkey meals with all the trimmings were handed out to local charitable groups and to individual families during a ceremony at Shop ‘N’ Save in Faith Plaza last Thursday. With each meal including enough food to feed six or more people, organizers estimate the program will provide holiday meals to 600 to 700 individuals.
The program brings together local companies, who donate funds to sponsor meals, which are then given to local charitable groups for distribution to families in need. Funds are also raised through newspaper subscriptions to the Ravena News-Herald.
“Each time someone bought a subscription to the newspaper, we bought food for a family in need,” said Warren Dews. Jr., publisher and vice president, who came up with the program. “We also want to thank the organizations that sponsored this. There are many different things we can do in the community, but we chose to help bring a little extra joy to families that are struggling to make ends meet during the holiday season. As the local newspaper and media company, we are here not only to provide news and information, but to be here for the community when they need it.”
Capital Region Independent Media President Mark Vinciguerra said the “Feed Your Mind, Feed A Family” program is emblematic of how local news is entrenched in the community it serves.
“We are not just providing a service, we are part of this community, for the good times and the challenging times,” Vinciguerra said. “We are happy to help in any way that we can, and this is a way to bring smiles to local residents during the holidays.”
Kyle Smith, store manager at Shop ‘N’ Save, said this is the second year in a row the store has participated in the program.
“I think it’s important to help out the town,” Smith said. “The town is so good to us that I want to be the first to step up to help people in the town. That’s why we do it — Thanksgiving is a time for giving and I’m happy to help.”
Numerous local businesses contributed to the cause and were on hand Thursday to help hand out meals, with 25 going to RCS High School, thanks to a donation from TCI.
“We did this last year and we are very happy to be a part of it this year,” said John Barr from TCI. “We donated 25 meals to the RCS High School, so basically this will help feed 125 to 150 people, and we couldn’t be happier.”
“This is something I got from my mom — nobody should go hungry any day, especially on Thanksgiving,” Barr added. “If we can do our little bit to make it a more joyous day for these families, that’s exactly why we do it. It’s very important for TCI to be a part of this.”
New high school principal Ryan Funck picked up the holiday meals and said he worked with English teacher Kasey Labarge to identify 25 families in the district who could benefit from the program.
“They can come to the high school on Monday and if they don’t have transportation, we will deliver it to their house,” Funck said Thursday. “With fuel oil prices and worry about heating your house, having something like this is spectacular.”
Each meal included a 12-pound turkey, rolls, a bag of potatoes, two cans of corn, a box of stuffing, a can of cranberry sauce, and a liter of soda.
“We sponsored the Thanksgiving meals for the local community,” said Sydney Kane, marketing manager at the Port of Coeymans. “We made a monetary donation and they bought the meals. We want to give back to the community that we are in. We have various offices in different locations, so we always give back to each location that we are in. We did this last year so when Warren [Dews Jr.] reached out again, we did it again this year.”
Josh Kowalski, vice president of sales and business development at the Port of Coeymans, agreed the program is all about helping the local community.
“We love this program because it’s ‘community first’ — if we don’t support the community, the community won’t support us. It’s cyclical,” Kowalski said. “A lot of our employees shop here, whether for lunch or they live here and shop here on a regular basis. Helping those in need of a hand at this time of the year is what we want to do.”
Several local not-for-profit groups that serve area residents were given meals that they, in turn, distributed to local families to make the holiday season a bit brighter.
“We are just so grateful to receive the meals,” said Rebecca Flach, executive director of Helping Harvest, a program of the Hope Full Life Center at Faith Plaza. “Everything costs so much these days, struggling families need a helping hand this year and this will help many families in the community.”
Melanie Collins, from the Trinity United Methodist Church Food Pantry in Coeymans Hollow, said the 10 meals the group will receive will go to good use.
“We are already pretty prepared for Thanksgiving distribution, but this will help us have a little bit more to serve folks, especially those who come in on an emergency basis,” Collins said. “Things are tightening up and people are finding it more difficult to make their dollars stretch, so we want to have as much as we can on hand. Shop ‘N’ Save and this program are a blessing.”
Robert McGehee, director of environment and land for the Northeast region at Holcim, said the company was participating in the “Feed Your Mind, Feed A Family” program for a second year.
“We have been here for 60 years, this is our home, this is where our employees live and play, so it really means a lot to us to take part in these events and support everyone around us, especially those who need support at this time of the year,” McGehee said.
Ron Teator, from Crossroads Ford, said his company was pleased to be a sponsor in the meal giveaway.
“It’s important to help out our community. There are a lot of people in need and we need to help out,” Teator said. “I’m always open to good ideas, and this is a great idea.”
Here are a few more photos from Thursday’s meal giveaway: