CAPITAL REGION — Concerned for the Hungry’s Thanksgiving Food Basket Drive kicks off next month for its 41st year. But this year, donations and volunteers are more important than ever, according to group spokesman Larry Lewis.
“We just need the community to recognize the extent that they’ve helped us in the past, or maybe haven’t helped us in the past, if they’ve ever thought about helping us in terms of donating food, donating money or becoming a volunteer, this is the year to do it,” Lewis said. “This is only going to happen if we get a lot of community support.”
Preparing for this year’s drive, Lewis said, has been unlike anything he’s had to navigate before. When the group’s committee first met in July amid the pandemic, members had to start discussing ways to safely allow residents to sign up as volunteers, donate to the drive and organize items during the Nov. 18-23 timespan. That’s why Lewis said a newly-introduced online sign-up form, on concernedforthehungry.org, was crucial.
Costs have jumped this year, too. The group is putting more money into having fruits and vegetables pre-packaged rather than having volunteers separate them. It has also expanded the number of families it’s aiming to serve from 2,200 to 2,400 in previous years to now 2,800 families. “That’s a 10, 15 percent increase,” Lewis said
The organization is also looking to operate in the usual Keane Elementary School in Schenectady, while still abiding by New York state’s health guidelines. With that, Lewis and the organization will spread out the time that tasks are completed and will use more space than usual to enforce social distancing, which is easier since school isn’t in session in the building.
“We’re just going to let it take longer and hopefully the number of people involved [at a time] will be smaller,” Lewis said. “And that’s how we’re going to do the entire program and stretch the tasks out over a longer time to minimize the amount of people who have to be in the building.”
Lewis said his ultimate hope for this year’s drive is to serve as many families as possible, and to do so safely.
“I hope we accomplish it with enough volunteers who come, feel safe doing it, get the job done and walk away feeling like they’ve done it well without putting themselves in harm’s way,” Lewis said.