Giving thanks, earning thanks

Soup kitchens and food pantries need help to offer help – and not just during the holidays

by Frances Marion Platt
November 18, 2010 11:20 AM | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Some friends with whom I often have the pleasure of sharing Thanksgiving introduced my family years ago to a lovely turkey-table tradition that we have since gone on to adopt ourselves: At some point during the dinner, each person seated is expected to cite at least one thing for which they have had occasion to feel thankful during the previous year. Now, every year has its own special ups and downs; but since becoming a parent 15 years ago, I have found that more often than not, my thoughts during this ritual turn to how many millions of mothers in the world are unable to provide a nourishing meal for their children – and how lucky I am, given the odds, not to be in such desperate circumstances.

Call me sentimental, call me maudlin; but thinking about that miserable daily reality that faces so much of humankind inevitably gets me a little teary-eyed. Although I am myself among the many who lost their full-time employment to the recession during the past year, my son will still not go hungry like so many of his counterparts in the Third World. But even in America, the most overconsuming nation on an overburdened planet, there are many who do not know where their next meal is coming from, and even more such Americans than usual in these difficult times.

Our local food pantries and soup kitchens in the mid-Hudson are painfully aware of this fact, citing astronomical increases over the past couple of years in the number of people who come to them seeking assistance – including many who never would have imagined themselves reduced to poverty. At the same time, financial support from government sources, foundations and individual donors is growing leaner and the competition for it fiercer. The Queens Galley in Kingston, for instance, came perilously close to having to turn hungry folks away just a few months ago because their food sources were so depleted.

It’s an integral part of the holiday tradition, of course, to give thought to our less-fortunate neighbors and either make a food or cash donation or show up at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving morning to help prepare meals for the needy. The latter is certainly the perfect way to spend the holiday in years when one doesn’t have a compulsory family gathering planned, and far be it from me to dissuade that impulse of generosity in anyone. But according to the hardworking folks who run our community organizations that provide food for the hungry, Thanksgiving itself tends to be the one day in the year when volunteers are least needed. Folks who are alone for the holiday have many choices of places to turn for a heaping plateful of turkey and trimmings; even shut-ins can call upon many agencies to deliver a meal to their door.

No, the times of greatest need are the days surrounding the holidays themselves, and afterwards when the bulge of supplies from holiday grocery-collecting drives has been used up. So if you’re feeling mindful of your comparatively privileged position and thankful for your family’s state of food security in a largely starving world, think about doing your giving-back on a day when the hordes of once-a-year volunteers have resumed their daily routines. Here are some community service organizations in the region where help is needed during the week preceding Thanksgiving:

From Thursday, November 18 through Saturday, November 20, Food Bank of the Hudson Valley will replenish its shelves of non-perishable items through a “Stuff the Bus” food drive at the Stop & Shop on Route 9 in Poughkeepsie. On the other end, able bodies are needed to “Unstuff the Bus” on Sunday, November 21 starting at 9 a.m. at the Food Bank warehouse at 195 Hudson Street in Cornwall-on-Hudson. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Jessica at (845) 534-5344. More information is available through the Food Bank website at

This Saturday, November 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Heart of the Hudson Valley, an organization advocating for family farms and sustainable agriculture, offers an opportunity to support its good work and prepare a locavore Thanksgiving feast for your family by purchasing your ingredients at its special indoor farmers’ market at the Milton Elementary School. The market will offer the freshest ingredients for all your holiday fixings, including fresh turkeys, organic produce, locally grown fruit, juice, eggs, honey, baked goods, pies, harvest soups, turkey tamales, beef, gourmet items and more. For details, visit or call (845) 616-7824.

Also on Saturday, November 20, People’s Place Food Pantry at 773 Broadway in Kingston needs folks to help pack Thanksgiving grocery bags. Even more volunteers will be required on Monday afternoon, November 22, to distribute the food to the needy. If you can help, please contact Peter at (845) 338-4030 or e-mail

Family of Woodstock Adolescent Services fills the need gap by serving its free annual Thanksgiving Dinner two days early, on Tuesday, November 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church at 72 Spring Street in Kingston. All friends, former and current clients and employees are welcome. Call Kelly at (845) 331-7080, extension 144, with your questions about attending or helping out.

The Queens Galley, located in a former funeral parlor on Washington Avenue in Kingston, reports that Thanksgiving “is one of our slower days of the year (we will only serve about 300 meals that day).” Therefore, the organization encourages “new volunteers to consider coming out to give a hand either the two days before the holiday or the day after…If you enjoy peeling, chopping and food-prepping, please consider helping on Tuesday or Wednesday [November 23 or 24]; if you enjoy serving, please consider joining us on Friday [November 26].” Call Felice Castellano at (845) 338-3468 or visit if you want to volunteer – or if you’ll be needing a meal on Thanksgiving Day.

So then the big day rolls around – Thursday, November 25 – and you really want a place to go and mingle with humanity, whether as a diner or a helper. The following are some of the many sites in our communities offering communal meals (or in some cases, home delivery). Please note that many of these require reservations in advance, while others can accommodate walk-ins; it’s best to call if you think that you might want to join the feast.

At the Town Hall on Route 199 in Milan, the bird of the hour gets a reprieve as the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society holds its annual Turkey-Free Thanksgiving Dinner, starting at 1:30 p.m. Please bring a vegan dish (free of meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs or honey) to share. Participants are also asked to kick in $10 each for adults, $5 for teens; kids under age 12 eat for free. RSVPs are requested; call (845) 876-2626 or e-mail

Also in Dutchess County, the Rhinebeck Lions’ Club will deliver free complete Thanksgiving dinners to anyone – no means test required – in Rhinebeck, Red Hook, Tivoli, Milan or Clinton Corners, home-cooked by members of the Lions Club and volunteers from the community. Volunteers are also needed to deliver the meals on Thanksgiving around 11 a.m. For more information or to make a reservation, e-mail Chris Chestney at or call (845) 876-3620 and leave your name and phone number.

The Red Hook Area Chamber of Commerce will provide dinner starting at 12:30 p.m. and takeout meals from 1:30 to 2 p.m. at the Red Hook United Methodist Church at 4 Church Street. Transportation is also available. Reservations are requested before November 22; please phone (845) 758-5959.

Back on the Ulster side of the river, Family of Woodstock offers its second turkey wingding of the week – this one the official 38th annual Free Thanksgiving Day Feast, with musical accompaniment, going on at the Woodstock Community Center on Rock City Road from 1 to 4 p.m. The Feast is open to all, but both cooks and volunteers to help serve food are needed. Take-home meals will also be provided to people who cannot be present, including police officers and hotline staff who work on the holiday. If you can make a favorite dish to share, cook a turkey or contribute time or money, contact Ruth at Family at (845) 679-2485.

Saugerties residents, RSVP right away – by Thursday, November 18 – if you want to attend a free Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner with all the trimmings. It’s open to anyone, regardless of religious affiliation, desiring not to be alone for Thanksgiving or for persons or families experiencing a special need on Thanksgiving Day. Dinner will be served from1 to 3 p.m. in the parish hall of St. John the Evangelist Church at 915 Route 212 in Centerville. There will be no walk-ins or takeout meals, but free transportation can be arranged. Please call Barbara Curry at (845) 246-4340, Stephanie Munzo at (845) 246-6066 or the Parish Office at (845) 246-9581 to RSVP.

Besides the aforementioned Queens Galley, Kingston offers a number of free Thanksgiving Day dinner options. The Caring Hands Soup Kitchen is providing a meal to the community at 12 noon at the Clinton Avenue United Methodist Church at 122 Clinton Avenue, and also delivering meals to area families who are shut in or otherwise wouldn’t have a meal on Thanksgiving. Volunteers are needed to work in teams of two, delivering meals to geographic areas with which they are familiar. For volunteering details or to donate a turkey or help support the Caring Hands feeding program, please contact the church office at (845) 331-7188.

A Thanksgiving Day Feast Dinner for anyone who is hungry, homeless or just in need of fellowship and a good meal will be offered by the Salvation Army at 35 Cedar Street in Kingston from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers will also make deliveries of meals for shut-ins. Call (845) 331-1803 for more information.

The Marbletown Community Center on Route 209 in Stone Ridge will host a Thanksgiving Day Luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. But if you want to participate, you must call the Marbletown Youth Commission at (845) 687-0800 before Friday, November 19 so that enough meals can be prepared.

Likewise, the Town of Rochester is posting a November 19 deadline to RSVP for the annual Thanksgiving Luncheon being served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Community Center on GLF Road in Accord. The event is free to seniors, families and anyone who may be spending the day alone. Donations and volunteers are needed. Call (845) 626-2115 to reserve or visit for information.

The New Paltz United Methodist Church, located at the corner of Main and Grove Streets, will host a community Thanksgiving dinner with two courses: appetizers and soup at 1 p.m. and dinner at 1:30 p.m. Guests who have a favorite vegetable, salad or dessert recipe are encouraged to prepare a dish to share. Roast turkey with stuffing and gravy, baked ham, cranberry sauce, veggies, breads, salad, beverages and dessert will be provided. All are welcome, free of charge; however, an offering to help cover costs is always accepted. Those who wish to help are welcome to arrive after 9 a.m.

Speaking of New Paltz, no discussion of virtuous Thanksgiving Day options in the mid-Hudson would be complete without noting that town’s seventh annual Turkey Trot – a 5K race benefiting Family of New Paltz, mostly on Plains Road and the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, that kicks off at Water Street Market at 9 a.m. Day-of registration begins at 8 a.m., but you can also preregister at the website at Until the day before Thanksgiving at 5 p.m., the Turkey Trot entrance fee is $10 for runners/walkers ages 18 and under and seniors 65 and over, and $15 for runners/walkers ages 19 to 64 years. On race day, the entrance fee is $12 for runners/walkers ages 18 and under and $17 for runners/walkers age 19 and over. There’s also a Mashed Potato Kids’ Quarter-Mile fun run that starts at 9:30, with no registration fee required. So sign up, stay out of the cook’s hair for the morning and burn off those gravy calories in advance while you help support Family’s New Paltz food pantry, crisis hotline and other services.

Such a good idea as the Turkey Trot was bound to catch on in other communities, and in fact there’s one in Rhinebeck that is marking its third year this Thanksgiving. It’s hosted by Ferncliff Forest, a non-profit 200-acre nature preserve with trails and an observation tower on the outskirts of Rhinebeck, and registration fees go to support the organization. The 5K Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot will start from Northern Dutchess Hospital at 6511 Springbrook Avenue in Rhinebeck and proceed to Ferncliff Forest along Mount Rutsen Road and back. Day-of registration at a cost of $40 per person is open from 7 until 8 a.m., with the race starting for walkers at 8:15 and runners at 8:30. Online registration at ends November 23, with prices of $30 for adults, $20 for youths aged 11 to 17 and $15 for children aged 10 and under.

For more information e-mail Knick Staley at or phone (845) 876-3196.

On a final note, let’s just try to hang onto the notion that late November is not the only appropriate time to feel thankful for all our blessings and to heed the nudge of conscience to share them whenever possible. Clip this article, pin it on your bulletin board or tuck it into your recipe book or someplace else where you’re likely to come across it at some oddball time of year when the soup kitchen or other service organization in your community is going to be hard-up for donations and volunteers. Then follow through on the reminder, and earn the thanksgiving of others less fortunate.

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