By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
RAVENA-COEYMANS-SELKIRK — More than 70 volunteers offered a helping hand at a mass food distribution that aided hundreds of local families last Thursday.
Volunteers in the distribution effort, run by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany, which partnered with the teachers’ union in the school district, braved frosty temperatures in the hours prior to the big snowstorm to hand out bags filled to the brim with healthy, nutritious food.
“We are here in Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk giving out food that we received from the Regional Food Bank,” Sister Betsy Van Deusen, director of community partnerships for Catholic Charities, said. “We had lots of volunteers out here this morning packing food — it came on 12 pallets and they split it all up and divided it into bags for people to drive through and take.”
Each bag contained a selection of foods including eggs, rice, yogurt, potatoes, fresh fruits and vegetables, and more. There was enough food for 550 bags, which were expected to aid a little over 500 families because households with six or more family members were given two bags, she said.
“We had 14,000 pounds of food this morning,” Van Deusen said.
Catholic Charities has been holding similar mass food distribution events in communities around the Capital Region since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Van Deusen said. The distribution event in the parking lot of the RCS campus was the organization’s 204th since that time.
“One of our volunteers is from Ravena and said we really need to go to Ravena,” Van Deusen said. “They work with the teachers’ union here in Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk and they said they would like for us to come down here because there is a real need here. That’s why we came — that is typically how we come to a community, because people invite us.”
Around 72 volunteers helped out in the mass food distribution, some local people and others who travel with Catholic Charities to many of their food giveaways around the region.
“I think this shows that people do care and there are resources out there,” Van Deusen said. “When we go to the grocery store, we can see that supplies are really limited and the price of food has gone up significantly. So how do we help one another? This is one of the ways we can do that.”
RCS teacher Alexander Dinzey was one of the volunteers lending a helping hand Thursday.
“We just wanted to help out with the community. It’s all for the greater good,” Dinzey said.
As far as he knows, this was the first mass food distribution held at the school. Students were on winter break, so the timing worked out perfectly, he said.
“It’s great to see everyone get together and collaborate,” Dinzey said. “Everyone is here for a good cause and to see the number of people that came out, it was really great to see those numbers, especially during these hard times. These are difficult times in every way, so it is great to see so many people helping out. They were here bright and early in the cold to help.”
Numerous students and young people were also on hand, dividing food into bags and helping load them into vehicles as people arrived.
“We came out to help people in need,” Katherine Desrosiers said. “This was a good opportunity to do that.”
St. Patrick’s Church parishioner Catherine Bashford said she was one of 10 or 12 volunteers from the church, along with the sister parish at St. Mary’s Church in Coxsackie, who came out Thursday.
“Catholic Charities does a lot of great stuff in our community and they have helped my family quite a bit, so I wanted to come and give back,” Bashford said. “We packed the food when it came in and now we are giving it to the people when they drive up in their cars. I just wanted to help out.”