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GOOD NEWS!: Feed Your Mind, Feed a Family makes holidays a bit brighter

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Sponsors and donors handed out 75 free turkey meals to food pantries and other groups Thursday to make Thanksgiving a bit brighter for local families. The Feed Your Mind, Feed a Family program is run by Capital Region Independent Media, which publishes the Ravena News-Herald, with the support of local donors. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

RAVENA — No one wants to sit down at an empty table on Thanksgiving, but for some families, that is a very real possibility.

That’s why Capital Region Independent Media, which publishes the Ravena News-Herald, started the Feed Your Mind, Feed a Family program three years ago, to provide free turkey meals, with all the trimmings, to local families.

The company partnered with local sponsors and Shop ‘n’ Save supermarket on Route 9W to provide free meals to 75 families this holiday season, and handed them out to food pantries and other organizations Thursday.

Feed Your Mind, Feed a Family is the brainchild of Warren Dews Jr., publisher of the Ravena News-Herald, who started it years ago in other communities and then brought the program to Ravena three years ago.

“I have been doing this program for 15 or 20 years,” Dews said. “I started it in Elmira, NY. As a marketing guy, my job was to market the paper but also try to make revenue and get new customers. I wanted to do that while also touching the community.”

In addition to sponsors that financially support the program, a portion of new subscriptions to the Ravena News-Herald also help pay for the meals.

“This is covered by new subscriptions and sponsorships from our big advertisers,” Dews said. “Over the years, doing this program, I think I have probably fed, easily, 6,000 or 7,000 people. Each meal feeds between six and 10 people, and if you give it to a food pantry, they can probably stretch it even further.”

Kyle Smith, manager of Shop ‘n’ Save, helps load a cart filled with Thanksgiving meals for Melanie Collins from the Trinity United Methodist Church food pantry. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Sponsors say they are happy to support the program.

“We do business in the community and we are really happy to give back in any way that we can,” said Dave MacLauchlin, plant manager at Holcim. “This is a great event and a good cause, and we are happy to participate. We look forward to doing it again next year.”

The food pantry at Trinity United Methodist Church in Coeymans Hollow was one of the recipient of more than a dozen Thanksgiving meals.

“We are getting 15 meals today,” said Melanie Collins from Trinity UMC. “I will distribute them through our food pantry in Coeymans Hollow. There is a desperate need for this. People come to us and they need food, and during the holidays there is twice as much need.”

Senior Projects of Ravena received eight meals through the program. Some they are handing out, while others the senior center will prepare and distribute to local seniors who couldn’t prepare the meal themselves.

“We are giving out a few of the meals to seniors that work for us that are low income, and we are cooking a few and making meals for other volunteers with us or seniors we know are in need. They will get meals that are already prepared.”

One of the seniors does not have an oven — just a microwave — and no family.

“For her, this meal will mean a great deal and make the holidays brighter,” Albano said. “We will give her a few meals so she can put them in a freezer and enjoy them later.”

Carver Companies has been a sponsor of the program for the past three years, since it first launched locally.

“We get involved because this is a great way to give back to the community,” said Josh Kowalski, vice president of Sales and Business Development at Carver Companies. “It’s that time of year when giving becomes more important. It’s important all year long, but during the holidays there are people who are suffering. We have been fortunate to do good business and we want to give back.”

Boxes filled with frozen turkeys that were handed out as part of the Feed Your Mind, Feed a Family program, operated each year by Capital Region Independent Media. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

The meals, which include a turkey, box of stuffing, potatoes and vegetables, were provided by Shop ‘n’ Save.

“It’s important for the community to make sure we are helping out those people who are in need,” said store manager Kyle Smith. “We want to make sure that everyone has food on the table on Thanksgiving. I am happy to do it.”

Another recipient of the holiday meals is RCS High School, which distributes the meals through its ongoing Backpack Program. Local company TCI makes their donation specifically for the school.

“We have a Backpack Program at the high school with 24 families that signed up and we partnered with a local food pantry to provide those families with food,” said Principal Ryan Funck. “TCI donated 10 dinners to the school and we called families that are in the Backpack Program — those are our most in-need families — and we set up a time on Tuesday to deliver the meals, or they can come and pick them up. We really appreciate it and are proud to be a part of it.”

TCI has been a program sponsor since the beginning.

“We are based here in Coeymans and a lot of our employees live here,” said Mark Westcott from TCI. “We think it is really important to be a good corporate citizen, so we get involved with a lot of different events. One of the most fundamental things is making sure people have enough to eat; that is especially true around the holidays but it’s year-round, too, so we support this event. We also work with other different groups in the community, particularly those that support kids.”

For Ron Teator at Crossroads Ford, the program gives sponsors a way to give back to the community.

“It’s great to help out needy families and I am so glad that our dear friend Mr. Dews put this together so we can help our community,” Teator said.

St. Catherine’s Center for Children also received meals through the program to help local families.

“These meals are going to make a big difference for families who would have been without this holiday season,” said Jaclyn Yusko from St. Catherine’s Center for Children.

Helping Harvest in Ravena said families that received meals Thursday were very grateful.

“We received 18 turkey dinners and immediately began handing them out to Helping Harvest members. They were touched by the gesture and grateful to have some of this expensive meal provided at no cost,” said Rebecca Flach from Helping Harvest. “Thank you to Capital Region Independent Media, Shop ‘N’ Save and all the sponsors for making this happen. The sense of caring and community this event creates is priceless.”

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