Here to Help

Residents benefit from public art display

by Heather Plonchak
February 24, 2011 01:10 PM | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Amber Kimble and Molly Morningstar pack bags at the food pantry for a local resident.
Amber Kimble and Molly Morningstar pack bags at the food pantry for a local resident.
The Saugerties Area Chamber of Commerce is gearing up for this year’s public art display. Instead of the ceramic horses that graced streets in the business district for the past two years, the streets will be full of solar-powered lighthouses decorated by local artists.

But the exhibit isn’t just about beautifying Saugerties. Each year, a charity is selected to benefit from the proceeds of the display, which come at the auction each fall.

One of those charities is the Saugerties Area Council of Churches Food Pantry, which serves over 500 residents per year.

Margaret Koenigsberg, who frequents the pantry often, was willing to share her experience with the organization. She can’t say enough about the food pantry. When times are good, Koenigsberg says she relies on her social security income, but when the going gets tough, she gets going – to the pantry. She says she usually visits every other month.

For Koenigsberg, the pantry is a godsend. She comes home with canned soups and stews that she can extend into several meals, along with other staples like bread and oatmeal. In the summer months, she goes for fresh fruits and vegetables are offered.

“If it wasn’t for this, I might not be able to get through,” said Koenigsberg.

She says that over the years, the pantry has become more crowded, and she is sure the economy is helping to drain the resources of the volunteer facility.

Koenigsberg understands all too well the embarrassment that some people associate with seeking help. When friends suggested she visit the food pantry, her own pride proved to be an obstacle. She says, though, that the possibility of starving was a stronger motivation.

“I didn’t want anyone to see me going there,” she said. “But I got to the point where I really needed the help. I was hungry, and no one has ever thought less of me for going.”

Pantry manager Marilyn Richardson reports that the facility is in good shape at the moment. Most years donations spike during the holidays and plummet though January and February, and this year was no exception.

This year, donations have been slower than last, and the number of visitors has shown a steady increase. The pantry serves over 500 men, women, and children each month.

The customer base has also changed, said Richardson. While years ago, only those with no source of income, or who were receiving assistance from the department of social services could visit, now pantry workers see working families and homeowners visiting frequently.

“Everyone is struggling,” said Richardson. “We’re there to help anyone who has a need.”

Last year, Horsin’ Around Saugerties enabled the Chamber of Commerce to donate $5,000 to the council of churches, but this time the money went to organization’s general fund rather than the food pantry. Still, the community benefitted from these funds.

Council of Churches treasurer Margaret Todd said the money was split between the general fund and the Finger Emergency Fund, which provides help mainly with housing and utilities. For example, recently that fund has been used to help pay rent for one resident, facilitate oil deliveries for some without heat this winter, and to shelter a family of 8 in a local hotel for a short time.

Todd says other monies in the general fund have been used to pay for meals at a local restaurant for displaced residents, provide emergency cab fare for one woman, and purchase a pair of shoes for a resident who needed them to start a new job.

“That’s what we’re here for,” said Todd. “That’s our mission, to help those in need.”

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