St. Mary’s Carondelet Community Fund supports 12 Amsterdam-area agencies

The Catholic Charities Food Pantry in Amsterdam is pcitured with Alice Burgado, food pantry coordinator and David Lopez,pantry Assistant.
The Catholic Charities Food Pantry in Amsterdam is pcitured with Alice Burgado, food pantry coordinator and David Lopez,pantry Assistant.

AMSTERDAM — The missions of a dozen community not-for-profits will be supported by funding awarded this year through St. Mary’s Carondelet Community Fund program.

The Carondelet Community Fund was established in 1996 to honor and continue the service-driven mission rooted in the outreach of the founders of St. Mary’s Healthcare, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

The grant funds are awarded to local agencies to provide assistance to programs that align with the missions and vision of St. Mary’s. This year, $12,500 was distributed among 12 agencies serving the community.

“St. Mary’s Healthcare is pleased to support local community agencies in honor of our founders  – the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. These partners exemplify our mission to serve the community with compassion and excellence,” said Margaret Brodie, St. Mary’s vice president of mission, in a prepared statement.

Recipients include the Twin Cities Council of Churches Food Pantry at St. John’s Episcopal Church, New Dimensions in Health Care, HFM Prevention Council and Creative Connections Clubhouse, Fort Plain Reformed Church, Comfort Zone Ministry at Trinity Lutheran Church, Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties, Montgomery County Office for Aging, Broadalbin-Perth Lions Foundation, Grow Amsterdam, Centro Civico, Haven of Hope and the ARC Lexington.

St. Mary’s put out a call to local agencies seeking applications for the available grant funds earlier this year, according to Rick Hyde, director of marketing and communications. The Carondelet Community Fund Committee reviewed the applications and made funding recommendations to the St. Mary’s Healthcare Board of Directors for final approval.

Each grant recipient is typically recognized for its role in supporting the community during an annual reception and award ceremony hosted by St. Mary’s. However, the organization privately acknowledged each agency and distributed the funds earlier this summer out of an abundance of caution due to the pandemic.

The grants will contribute to a variety of support and education programs in the community. Funding to New Dimensions in Health Care will support 1-2-3 Smile, an early intervention program designed to educate children and parents on the importance of oral hygiene. The award to the HFM Prevention Council and Creative Connections Clubhouse will aid the creation of a community garden.

Several of the grants were awarded to support programs aimed at addressing food insecurity in the community. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the numbers of individuals and families accessing food programs has increased dramatically.

St. Mary’s has worked to help meet the need locally through its food pantry, food pharmacy and by offering assistance with local food drops, Hyde said. The Carondelet Community Fund awards will support the ongoing efforts of other agencies in the region to ensure individuals and families have access to food.

“It is a community need that we’ve seen continue to arise,” Hyde said.

Use of the emergency food pantry at Fort Plain Reformed Church has increased around a thousand-fold since the start of the pandemic, estimated Rev. Nancy Ryan. The food pantry was started in September 2018 to provide emergency support to individuals and families facing a sudden need.

“Our goal at that point was to be a stopgap food pantry for people over the weekend or people who maxed out at other pantries that need to be more strict about how often people come,” Ryan said. “We wanted to be a place if people had a difficult time, maybe they had a surgery or they are elderly, where somebody who needed something to get through could come.”

The pantry was initially accessible 24-hours a day and stocked with full, homemade meals prepared by volunteers in advance and frozen until needed. The meals were meant to be easy for individuals to thaw and reheat in the microwave. The church was forced to change directions last spring when demand for support skyrocketed.

“People were coming and needing supplies far more regularly than we imagined,” Ryan said.

The pantry now primarily stocks non-perishable goods with a focus on ensuring goods to anyone in need. Basic items like peanut butter and jelly, tuna fish, canned fruit and vegetables, pasta and the occasional frozen items are commonly distributed. Families are also provided vouchers for bread, milk and eggs.

The pantry also offers weekly hours on Monday and Wednesday from 9 to 11 a.m. and Thursday from 4 to 5 p.m. The church does its best to accommodate families in need of emergency support outside of regular hours when needed, Ryan added.

Use of the food pantry varies from week to week, providing each visitor enough food for upwards of five meals for each member of their household. The pantry served around 20 families last week, which Ryan noted could represent an individual or a large household of multiple individuals.

Though much about the pantry has changed, Ryan said contributions from the community have allowed the program to continue offering support to families when needed regardless of their circumstances.

“When the pandemic hit, the community supplied food and monetary donations that have continued to make it possible to do no questions asked,” Ryan said. “Some other pantries have to check credentials because they have limited resources. The community and folks are so generous, if someone says they are hungry, we are able to give them food.”

One element that has been missing from the food pantry in recent months is the ability to provide families with a homemade meal.

With the support of volunteers and the Canajoharie-Fort Plain Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the church was able to offer takeout meals to the community free of charge twice in the last year that each provided around 160 homemade dinners with all the trimmings to residents from across the region.

The Fort Plain Reformed Church will use the $1,000 Carondelet Community Fund grant it received to fully cover the cost of providing two homemade meals to the community free of charge later this year. Offering the hot dishes provides an invaluable opportunity for locals to interact with one another, according to Ryan.

“It’s our goal to give people sustenance they need for their bodies, but also that connection they need for their emotional and spiritual self,” Ryan said. “We’re very grateful for places like St. Mary’s that offer support for these kinds of ministries in the community, they help make it possible.”

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