Kelsey helps food pantries
HARLEM VALLEY — The holidays are behind us, and unfortunately this often means the spirit of giving also falls behind the stresses of work, school, bills and daily life.What it doesn’t mean is that the needs of people who depend on the kindness of strangers have gone away. Communities here offer strong support systems for those less fortunate that run year round and offer a wide variety of support.Recently, Dutchess County Legislator Michael Kelsey announced his candidacy for the New York State Assembly. (He has since lost the Republican nomination.) He had, however, been using the opportunity to campaign in an unusual way. Kelsey, who writes a weekly column that appears in The Millerton News, has been distributing fliers explaining his personal story and the help his family received in the past from local food banks. The flier comes attached to a paper bag.“I’m trying to propose, not impose. There is a problem out there, and I’m proposing a solution. If you have extra then it would be great to give. Fill up the bag, and drop it off to a local food pantry. There’s always someone out there who needs your help. But it works both ways. If you need food, know that there’s help out there. Take the bag and get it filled,” Kelsey said.Kelsey’s family fell on hard times when he was younger and was able to stay afloat through the donations of local food banks.“People are often afraid to ask for help. So many people have lost jobs, fallen into hard times, and there really should be no shame in asking for help,” he said.Kelsey’s flier lists several items needed at food banks as well as a list of places to donate to.“I always remember how great it was to get the really good cereal, the little treats. Think about when you’re shopping, the little luxuries you enjoy. Maybe you would cut out coffee if times got tough, maybe someone else has gone without it, so pick up two the next time you’re in the store. Those special items really make someone’s day,” he said.He also mentioned that often people have pets that are in need too.“Pets need to eat, too, and they so often get forgotten. Donations of pet food are always really appreciated when someone is struggling,” he said.One of the food pantries listed on Kelsey’s handout is the St. Thomas Episcopal Church’s Food of Life Pantry in Amenia. Food of Life is run by the Rev. Betsy Fisher, along with a team of more than 50 volunteers. The parish’s motto of being “a community of radical hospitality” is in no way over-stated.“We’re a very collaborative effort. We give away anywhere from 150 to 230 meals a week. Each person who comes in gets nine meals, enough for three days,” Fisher said.The church relies on the generosity of parishioners and the community alike. They receive donations from several organizations including Grace Church in Millbrook and the Millbrook School. Fisher explained that those in need don’t just need food. “Think of all the things you would have to go without if you lost your job: clothes, health care, heat. Whatever people need, we try to find a way to obtain for them. We’re about lifting people up, building confidence and helping them get back on their feet. It’s about supporting people and maintaining dignity, not just giving a free handout,” she said.Hudson River Community Health has joined Fisher and hosted several clinics for those in need. The Community Action Partnership also comes by twice a month to assist individuals with things like applying for food stamps or signing up for heating fuel programs.“We’re really trying to create a support system. Our communities are so generous. We get the time, talent and treasure from so many wonderful people.” Fisher said.For assistance or to make a donation, contact the following organizations:Immaculate Conception Church, Amenia, 845-373-8193South Amenia Presbyterian Church, South Amenia, 845-373-9959St. Thomas Episcopal Church’s Food of Life Pantry, Amenia, 845-373-9161United Methodist Church, Pine Plains, 518-398-5521Community Action Partnership: Millbrook Free Library, 3 Friendly Lane; Amenia Town Hall, Route 22; and Stanford Town Hall, 26 Town Hall Road.