Festival of Hope crimped by higher costs

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Volunteers at the First Presbyterian Church in Johnstown engage in meal preparation work for the third Annual Festival of Hope free Thanksgiving meal event.

Photo Caption: Volunteers at the First Presbyterian Church in Johnstown engage in meal preparation work for the third Annual Festival of Hope free Thanksgiving meal event. PROVIDED

The Community Foundation of the Adirondack Foothills delivered 2,600 free Thanksgiving meals to individuals and families in need on Thursday as part of the third Annual Festival of Hope event, about 606 fewer meals than in 2020, although the total cost was about $1,000 more.

“It cost more to do less,” event organizer Tanyalynnette Grimes said Thursday night, after a day spent delivering meals to different locations in Fulton and Montgomery counties. “We ended up having to close the [acceptance of requests for] meals a little early this year, because of supplyline issues, with making sure we had enough turkey, and enough pretty much everything.”

Grimes is the CEO of the Micropolis Development Group, which owns a portfolio of small businesses in Gloversville. She created the Community Foundation of the Adirondack Foothills, known by the acronym CFADK, as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation for local charitable activity. She first organized the Festival of Hope in 2019 as an offshoot of the 42-year traditional Twin Cities Council of Churches free Thanksgiving meal.

The first edition of the Festival of Hope in 2019 included 1,500 free Thanksgiving meals, but during the heart of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 the event expanded to 3,206 meals delivered with the help of 150 volunteers and donations of over $17,000.

In September Grimes announced her goal for Thanksgiving 2021 was 5,000 meals, and the Community Foundation sent out over 4,000 postcards and emails promoting the availability of the free meal to past recipients as well as social organizations that help the needy. Grimes said the bulk of the responses came back around mid-November, making it difficult to estimate how many meals to pre-order at a time when global supply chain problems were significantly increasing costs.

“Even [on Thanksgiving Day] we had people calling trying to register new meals, and, unfortunately we had a milestone we had reached and we added a few hundred more meals, and then those numbers were reached by like Friday of last week,” she said.

“We had contacted our food vender Sysco [Albany, wholesale restaurant food supplies], who has been our food vendor for a couple of years now, and they’re very good to us, and we had earmarked a certain amount of food, knowing that we were going to reach certain quantity levels.”

And as costs rose the number of volunteers also declined. Grimes said last year the Festival of Hope paid about $5 per meal and was helped by 60 volunteers, but this year’s meals were $7.65 and 40 volunteers assisted, although there were fewer delivery stops in the two counties.

“In previous years a lot of our deliveries were single meals to single addresses, so it was a majority of people who were alone on Thanksgiving,” Grimes said.

“This year, we see a lot of deliveries that are five or more. Some were over 10, or up to 18, so it was multi-generational families living together in the same household. Our take on that is, with it being so close to the eviction moratorium ending, we think a lot of families are gathering back together under a single roof, which kind of stresses family budgets and that kind of thing.”

Grimes said that although there were fewer meals distributed by the Festival of Hope than in 2020, there was an increase in the number of meals distributed in Gloversville and more deliveries to remote rural addresses in Fulton County.

“If there’s one thing that anybody could get me for Christmas it would be routing software — that seems to be our biggest dilemma, being more efficient at delivery,” Grimes said.

“The average person can deliver about 20 to 25 meals in a two-hour period. When I’m in the city of Gloversville, I can easily deliver 20 addresses on East Fulton Street, but when I get to the more outer rural addresses, some of the addresses in [the Town of] Amsterdam, it could take an hour to get out there. So, next year we’re hoping to learn from the experience of this year and find a company that will donate some routing software.”

Community Foundation was able to raise about $10,000 to pay for the Festival of Hope prior to Thanksgiving, but the total cost of the free meal event was about $18,000, so $1,000 more than in 2020, but for “We still have to pay the bill on the food, Sysco was nice enough to deliver and then give us 30 days,” Grimes said.

“So, we still have another $8,000 to raise. And the cost is not just the food. It’s the packaging. It’s the cups that hold the gravy and the cranberry sauce, just the little things you don’t think about, all of the little accessory things.”

People interested in supporting the CFADK fundraising effort can check out the group’s “donation thermometer” found at www.foh2021.com.

Grimes said people who are interested in donating may do so by writing a check payable to the “Community Foundation of the Adirondack Foothills” mailed to 965 State Highway 9A Suite 102, Gloversville, or online at www.CFADK.org/giving.

CFADK’s next charitable event is the “Coats for Kids” drive aimed at getting 250 winter coats, as well as warm hats, gloves/mittens and boots to children in need.

“We distribute those to the school districts,” Grimes said. “They let us know how many sizes they need, that way children’s privacy rights are protected. People who want to donate can bring new coats, hats and gloves to the Micropolis and CFADK offices at 965 State Highway 29A.”

By Jason Subik

Leave a Reply