Posted by Julia Leef
Students or faculty looking to make a change in a family's life this Thanksgiving holiday may find a way in the Support-a-Family for Thanksgiving program. This initiative is over twenty years old and it will help provide over 800 low-income families in Saratoga County with complete Thanksgiving baskets this year.
The program raises money for the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council (SCEOC), the local Community Action Program responsible for several charity and outreach programs, including Women, Infants and Children, Weatherization Assistance, Nutrition Outreach, Wheels for Work and the Latino Community Advocacy Program.
"We've developed a real sense of community over the years," Professor of Economics Roy Rotheim, who started the program and is on the board of SCEOC said. "It's just one of those situations where every penny goes to feeding somebody. There's not overhead, there's no skimming off the top and it doesn't go to paying salaries at the EOC."
Since the program's founding, Support-a-Family for Thanksgiving has collected almost $100,000 in donated funds, which includes the annual contribution from the Celebration 5K run-walk organized by the Running Club and Professor of Math and Computer Science Gove Effinger. The Celebration 5K donated $300 to the program this year.
"It was something that they [the members of the SCEOC] were doing and I just thought, 'How can they pay for it?'" Rotheim said. "If you see a piece of paper on the floor, someone's got to pick it up, and I might as well be that person to pick it up."
Rotheim collects and organizes the money donated through the College and forwards it on to the SCEOC to purchase the meals for the families. Each donated meal consists of a full groceries bag worth of food and a voucher for a turkey. Rotheim also participates in outreach programs during Christmas and Easter, during which he coordinates an Easter dinner with his wife and other volunteers from the College to provide food to people in need.
In his work with the soup kitchen over the past twenty years, Rotheim has gotten to know several of the guests, who come over to greet him when they see him in town occasionally. Rotheim said he has often received notes from people in the community saying that donating to this cause made them feel good, and that they are glad they had an opportunity to participate in the cause.
"I feel really proud that I'm a member of a community that would support something like this. I'd love to make it more inclusive so that the students can participate in some way," Rotheim said. "I wish there was more support from students, but I do understand the financial exigencies. From staff, faculty and administrators, the best part is that I could just get checks, which go directly to the EOC."
Anyone interested in supporting a family for a Thanksgiving dinner may send a check or cash for $25 to either Rotheim through the campus mail or to the SCEOC at 40 New Street, P.O. Box 5120, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-8037. Checks should be made out to EOC Food Programs.