Fall is always an expensive period for the Herkimer County Hunger Coalition. 2023 was no exception as we had to reach deep in our pockets to meet our obligations. What follows are several examples. In response to an article in the Rome Sentinel which involved a request from Rescue Mission head honcho Matt Miller for donations to purchase gobblers for Thanksgiving, the Coalition donated $300. The largess was given in gratitude to the Sentinel for its great coverage of not only Coalition events, but other goings-on in the lower valley. Also benefiting from monetary donations were the Richfield Springs Food Pantry, Dolgeville Pantry, Catholic Charities (Ilion), Food Bank of Central N.Y., House of Good Shepherd, Greater Herkimer Lions Club, Ilion First Presbyterian Lunch Program, “Lena Fund,” Central Assoc. for the Blind, MOVAC, Benton Hall backpacks (thanks Sue Wallace-Eaton) and most recently Adopt-A-Platoon in the memory of Ed Juteau, Jr. Longtime friend and supporter Vietnam combat medic Dennis Thorp turned us on to this worthwhile cause. When asked why give out so much money, Chief Kelly Brown responded-“We’re not a bank.”

Our Brenda Lahaie Annual Winter Coat Program provided nearly 700 children with new, warm winter garments. The following elementary schools-organizations benefited: Benton Hall Academy (Little Falls), Dolgeville, CVA, Frankfort, BOCES, House of Good Shepherd and, in the memories of late HCCC Sociology Prof. Gary Wayne Ruff and Chief Lloyd Elm, the Onondaga Nation School (thanks, Kay Lenarcic).

Operation Candy Cane, organized by Laura Hailston and Vietnam combat medic Ron Schoonmaker, is underway. Unwrapped gifts, including wool caps, puzzle books, thermal gloves (adults) and coloring books, crayons, barbies, etc. (children) are collected, taken to the Marine Cpl. Gregory Harris Hospitality Room at Hancock Airport and offered to troops in transit. Also awaiting our heroes are handmade Christmas cards created by Benton Hall Academy students. Over the past decade, thousands have received a little Christmas cheer compliments of Laura and the Coalition.

Benton Hall Academy fourth graders received copies of The First Thanksgiving and participated in a Half and Half Contest (e.g. birtle-half bird, half turtle) while fifth graders will be receiving copies of The Candle in the Window in December. Regarding schools and exclusive of the Coalition, a big thank you to Laura Scalise and her co-teachers for organizing a “shoebox” program at Herkimer High benefiting deserving students.

Finally, the Gram Lorraine Children’s Christmas Program, in its 17th year, is underway. An outgrowth of HCCC’s Adopt-A=Child Program founded by Ray Lenarcic in the 1980’s, it will reach approximately 700 children-each receiving at least 4 items of clothing, boots and a toy, book or game of choice. Participating schools include Benton Hall Academy, CVA, Frankfort, BOCES, Ft. Plain, Owen D. Young and Mt. Markham. Sponsors range from individuals to organizations (Greater Herkimer Lions Club) to businesses (Lexington Corp.). Since its inception, thousands of deserving children have enjoyed a truly Merry Christmas. And thanks to the efforts of a 16 year-old student at New Hartford Central, Andrew Snyder, ten of the neediest families will have a new Christmas tree and all the trimmings to put gifts under.

The Coalition (hchungercoalition.org) thanks everyone who in one way or another (e.g. driving Cookie Corps donations to Hancock Airport) made 2023 a success. Together they personify that ole adage-“Tis better to give than receive.” To all-Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year.