It’s starting to add up.
For the three years that he has been a member of the state Assembly, Colonie Democrat Bob Reilly has donated his entire after-tax salary to nonprofit groups serving his district in northern Albany and southern Saratoga counties. This year’s $73,000 donation was announced Thursday, and it brings his three-year total to more than $218,000.
Why does he do it? “I want people to think better of their government and themselves,” Reilly said. “… We do not think well enough of ourselves, especially in this area.”
But pointing to the representatives of nonprofits gathered to receive their oversized symbolic checks, and the volunteers who support their organizations, he said these are “people serving other people. You see the goodness in our society.”
The biggest awards were of $7,500 each, going to the Alzheimer’s Association for a safety program, toward refurbishing the Cohoes Community Center and for a domestic violence program at The Legal Project.
The Scotia-Glenville Children’s Museum, which travels to schools across the Capital Region, got $7,000 for new, high-tech projectors to replace old slide projectors.
Albany Rural Cemetery got $5,000 to restore a historic bridge, and Stride Inc. got $5,000 to teach disabled children how to ride bicycles. Checks for the same amount went to Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Colonie Senior Services Center, and Food Pantries of the Capital District, whose executive director, Lynda Schuyler, said: “Thank you for creating a better future for our community.”
Also getting $5,000 were The Legal Aid Society (for consumer education), Shenendehowa Senior Citizens (for a diabetes program) and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (to replace kitchen equipment where they prepare community meals). Literacy Volunteers got $3,500 to boost tutor recruitment.
Reilly, 68, thanked his wife, Mary, a retired teacher, for supporting his decision to give away so much. He himself is a former high school teacher and Siena College cross-country coach who spent most of his career in the state Education Department, retiring as director of the Public Broadcasting Office. He also gave away his salary when he served as an Albany County legislator.
A committee chooses the recipients, and the fund is managed by the Community Foundation for the Capital Region. Reilly said groups wanting to apply for funding should contact the foundation.
Reilly read “The Prayer of St. Francis,” which he said he had seen Rep. Michael McNulty, D-Green Island, read at a recent event. On a lighter note, he said those assembled at the news conference “are the only group of people in New York who advocate salary increases for legislators.”
Reilly defeated a Republican incumbent, Bob Prentiss, in 2004 and was easily re-elected in 2006 even though there are more than 9,000 more enrolled Republicans than Democrats in his district. The district includes the towns of Halfmoon, Clifton Park and Colonie.