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Community steps up during cold wave

Community steps up during cold wave

City Mission of Schenectady officials say donations have helped
Community steps up during cold wave
Danielle’s House shelter director Lynette Clo makes a bed Tuesday in Amsterdam.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

SCHENECTADY — In his 28 years at the City Mission of Schenectady, Mike Saccocio said this is the longest cold streak he’s seen.

The executive director and CEO of the City Mission said the unusual weather has sparked a greater need for clothing, food and shelter. 

In fact, it has not been this cold for this many consecutive days since February 1979, according to Joe Villani, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.

RELATED: Storm to blast East Coast before polar vortex uncorks more cold late this week

He said temperatures are expected to get into the mid-20s on Wednesday. But by Thursday night, the mercury will drop back below zero.  

Villani said that, on Friday night, with windchill, the temperature could reach 35 degrees below zero in the Albany area.

The City Mission has added more staff so it can give away more food and clothing during this cold snap, Saccocio said.

The current cold streak began just after Christmas, so mission volunteers and donors have seen a lot more generous with their time and resources than normal, he said. That has allowed the mission to meet the high demand.

“It’s the community’s response that allows us to do what we need to do here,” Saccocio said.

The generosity has spread to other area shelters, including those operated by the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless. That organization operates an emergency shelter on Sheridan Avenue in Albany, a drop-in center for the homeless on Swan Street in Albany, and Danielle’s House, a shelter in Amsterdam that provides emergency, transitional and permanent housing for the homeless.

Erin Coufal, spokeswoman for the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, said the holiday season brought in several donations of socks, gloves and hats for distribution at the shelters. The concern, however, is for what the rest of the winter will bring.

“The bitter cold will not last forever,” Saccocio said. “But when it ends, it’s still early winter.”

The City Mission has already given away more than 900 coats since November. According to Saccocio, they normally only give out 1,000 coats for the entire season.

Saccocio also said the mission has been serving 650 meals a day, more than are served in a typical season. 

Coufal said Interfaith Partnership volunteers have given away 889 clothing items over the past month. And at one point last week, the organization's main kitchen ran out of bread.

Within 24 hours, though, Coufal said a team of volunteers helped restock the pantry with 250 loaves.

The public’s generosity during the holidays has also been helpful, Coufal said. Her worry, though, is what happens after the holiday season, when the cold weather persists.

“We’re at a critical point where the weather is getting really cold, and we’re not on the top of everyone’s minds,” Coufal said of a typical post-holiday season.

Usually, the organization can stockpile donations from the holidays and spread them out through the winter. But with this cold wave, they’ve had to give away supplies immediately.

That is why Coufal said volunteers are getting the word out now that they need more warm clothing, toiletries, laundry detergent and twin-sized bedding.

Both Coufal and Saccocio reiterated that they are grateful for the support of the community.

“We’re assuring people their extra effort is making a difference,” Saccocio said.

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