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'Helping Hands' collegians distribute foods for needy school kids in Niskayuna

'Helping Hands' collegians distribute foods for needy school kids in Niskayuna

'Helping Hands' collegians distribute foods for needy school kids in Niskayuna
Maddie McCarthy, 20, hands a bag of food to a family in need at Niskayuna High School on Monday.
Photographer: Erica Miller

NISKAYUNA -- Julia Sexton and her friends crowded the passenger side of a red sports utility vehicle that pulled into the rear parking lot at Niskayuna High School.

They gave the driver plastic bags full of cereals, muffins, juices and fruits.

"This is breakfast food," Sexton, 19, a sophomore biochemistry major at the University of Vermont, told the driver. "Tuesday we'll do lunch food."

Sexton and her team of friends -- college sophomores idled by the continuing spread of coronavirus and back home -- on Monday volunteered for the new "Helping Hands for Niskayuna" group and helped put food from the Nisky NOW program on the tables of needy children.

With schools closed this week, and more down time possible later this month, school children who depend on free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches are missing meals. Nisky NOW, a group that ensures kids have enough to eat on weekends, prepared food bags for pick-up.

The collegians spent morning and afternoon hours in the parking lot, standing in winter coats on a sunny but chilly late winter day. By noontime, about 10 parents had stopped for the breakfast foods.

The "Helping Hands" group has been formed to help seniors, people with limited mobility or transportation access and the medically frail cope with the pandemic. Volunteers will be on the job again today, distributing food from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the high school and from noon until 2 p.m. at Glencliff Elementary School in Rexford.

Students offered reasons for their participation.

"Since I'm home, I just want to give back to the community," Sexton said. "It's nice out and we want to make sure kids are getting fed with everything crazy."

The "Helping Hands" crew said they will also volunteer to grocery shop for seniors who should not leave their homes. The teens also are prepared to check up on seniors and make sure they're OK during the health crisis.

Maddie McCarthy, 20, a music business major at the Crane School of Music at the State University at Potsdam, reflected on the chaotic times that have come with the virus situation.

"If we can make it easier for a couple people, that would be great," she said, "and give some peace of mind to people who are nervous and who might not have resources.

"As long as we're helping just one person," McCarthy added, "it makes a difference."

Jillian Margolies, 19, a cognitive science major at the University at Buffalo, said she volunteered at Schenectady's City Mission during her 2019 spring break. "This is just another way to help out," she said. "It's just the right thing to do."

Caroline McGraw, 19, studying politics at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C. also wants to make sure kids have breakfast and lunch foods. "I think it's a really great thing we're doing," she said.

Lynne Felczak, a secretary at Hillside Elementary School, was supervising for Nisky NOW on Monday.

"I think it's important to the community," she said. "I was hoping we would have a line back to Nott Street. I'm sure if this continues, we'll have more people utilizing the opportunity."

Contact staff writer Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]

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