Coalition will use BKW as site for food distribution to Hilltowns’ needy

— Photo from the Capital District Area Labor Federation — Nora McDowell

Volunteers help load boxes of food in residents’ cars at the Troy Italian Community Center earlier this winter. A similar event will be held Feb. 18 in the Hilltowns.

HILLTOWNS — A coalition of Capital District not-for-profits will use the Berne-Knox-Westerlo school campus on Feb. 18 to hand out hundreds of boxes of food — no questions asked — to Hilltown residents in need.

The coalition is made up of the Regional Food Bank, Catholic Charities, and the Capital District Area Labor Federation, who’ve been holding dozens of food-distribution events throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, first focusing on the region’s major cities, and now spreading out into other areas of need.

“We’re trying to make sure we don’t lose people where there are food deserts and there’s no access to this kind of stuff,” said Mark Emanatian, director of the Capital District Area Labor Federation.

There are no qualifications that have to be met to receive food, he said, which is intended to make people feel as comfortable and welcome as possible.

“Some of these people have never needed help in their life,” Emanatian said, “but they’ve lost jobs, income, hours, whatever, and we want to make them feel like we’re all in this together. That’s why we don’t ask for any kind of identification. They don’t have to prove anything. They just have to come.”

The group will truck in enough food to fill about 450 boxes, each containing enough to give a family of four “a couple of good meals or more,” said Emanatian.

The boxes will include fresh, whole foods, like potatoes, bread, milk, and chicken, and they’ll be handed out by volunteers from each of the organizations as well as the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Teachers’ Association, which is co-sponsoring the event, in addition to local residents.

BKW Teachers’ Association President Phil Matthews told The Enterprise that the union got involved when a New York State United Teachers labor-relations specialist, Mike Rowan, contacted Emanatian “and the two of them started brainstorming about getting one of these food drives up on the Hill, and they reached out to Kevin Grossman,” who is the BKW teacher’s association labor-relations specialist.

Grossman alerted Matthews, he said, “And we just went from there with it.”

Between the teachers’ association and the teachers’ support-staff union, 14 people are interested in volunteering so far, Matthews said.

Anyone else who wants to volunteer can come to the school at 8:15 a.m. and help set up the event prior to hand-out, which begins at 9:30 a.m. “It’s good when [recipients] don’t see it just as people from outside coming in to help, but people from their own community,” Emanatian said. 

The only information recipients will provide are their ZIP codes, which helps the coalition track distribution, and the number of people they’re trying to feed.

“Say they have seven people in their family,” Emanatian said. “We’ll give them two boxes … We have folks who come pick stuff up for other families, or they’re getting it for their mother, too.”

This is the first time this collective has organized an event in the Hilltowns, but the goal is to return semi-regularly until the pandemic is under control and the economy is in better shape. Emanatian said that, so far, there’s no point of distribution the coalition hasn’t returned to.

“We’ve been doing it a lot at school districts,” Emanatian said, “because in some cases there’s 500 cars. So when schools are closed you can use those big parking lots.” 

At the Hoosick Falls Central School District, hand-outs were held over the summer and winter breaks, and will return again for the February, spring, and summer breaks this year.

“We figure we’ve got another year of doing this before the economy can get right and people will be on the right track again,” said Emanatian.


More Hilltowns News

  • It took responders nearly 24-hours to find Wesley L. Knapp, an 82-year-old man from Pennsylvania who was declared missing the night of Sept. 10 after phoning his wife to let her know he was stuck in mud in the Stage Road area of Berne. 

  • Ahead of the Rensselaerville Historical Society’s annual Attic Treasures fundraiser, where the $10 admission covers one free appraisal with a small fee for any beyond that, The Enterprise spoke with one of the featured appraisers, Russ Carlsen, of the Carlsen Gallery auction house in Freehold, about valuing and selling antique objects.

  • This week, the Rensselaerville Town Board moved ahead with a law that would — on paper, at least — allow marijuana dispensaries to operate in the town, scheduling a public hearing for Sept. 28. Meanwhile, discussion about another law, which would regulate Airbnbs and other short-term rentals, was paused for lack of urgency.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.