A few years ago I wrote my first love letter to the Oswego community. After the outpouring of help and donations this year to the Human Concerns Center, I had to write the sequel.
Oswego is in the midst of a reawakening. Our community is uniting together to improve our neighborhoods, parks and general spirit. Yet, our community cannot become a first-class place to live unless we make it the kind of place that benefits us all.
And we are.
The Human Concerns Center is an emergency food pantry that operates year round.
Clients come to us for food help because they are among the working poor, have lost their jobs, are disabled or unable to make their food dollars stretch a full month.
So far in 2014, we have served more than 1,000 families, 7,394 individuals and 66,546 meals.
This is an increase of 914 individuals and 8,226 meals over our numbers in 2013.
We provide our clients with three days of food for each family member. They can come for food every 30 days if they meet the guidelines set by the Federal Government for emergency food.
Additionally, we provide food baskets for those in need at Thanksgiving.
This year, more than 327 families in the Oswego City School District received a complete Thanksgiving dinner including fruit, vegetables, pies, turkey and all the fixings. The Trinity Methodist Church adopted seven families; Human Concerns Center provided the dinners for the remainder.
Now you should be wondering how Human Concerns pays for all of this. That is where the community’s compassion comes into play.
Without the generosity of the people of Oswego, we would not exist; yet, we have been functioning for nearly 30 years and we are in no danger of closing.
The people of Oswego aid us in countless ways throughout the year. Whether they conduct a food drive to collect non-perishable foods or send a check, or remember us in their wills, the food and money necessary to run a food pantry streams in from the people.
Since we are an all volunteer operation every penny we receive, every can that is donated supports those in need.
In October, we gather our forces to begin the Thanksgiving basket giveaway. We survey our shelves for what we need beyond the day-to-day materials. Ordering stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce becomes essential.
Next, we contact the Oswego Firemen’s Benevolent Association. For years, the firemen have unselfishly given money to buy turkeys for the baskets.
The firemen also aid us in handing out the Thanksgiving baskets. They escort the clients through the Human Concerns Center to pick up their dinners and walk them out to their transport.
To help us pay for the Thanksgiving baskets, Wal-Mart also gave us a generous grant. They have been providing this grant for more than four years, and we thank them for their continued generosity.
Once all of the above is completed, we order pies and turkeys.
Without the expertise and generosity of Bosco and Geers, we would not be successful. This year, they provided 285 turkeys at cost (the remainder of the turkeys are donated).
They also delivered and stacked those items at the Human Concerns Center. Throughout the year they continue their good works by providing food donations.
Although the help of Bosco and Geers is vital to us, we also need the help of two other stores.
Price Chopper provided 320 pies at a reasonable cost and helped deliver them as well. Big M donated items for our baskets and has assisted us for many years. Without the help of all of these grocers, we would not be able to carry out our goal of feeding those in need.
In addition to local grocery stores, Oswego growers and farmers help us to fill our Thanksgiving baskets.
The following groups have donated generously to meet the needs of a growing number of families.
Dunsmore Farms, Fruit Valley Orchard, Ontario Orchards, C’s Farms and Gianetto Farms all contribute produce such as potatoes, squash, apples, carrots and onions so that we may make the baskets special and healthy with fresh produce.
Furthermore, there are many groups throughout the Oswego community who help us throughout the year and especially for our Thanksgiving dinners.
Although it would take too many words to describe all of the groups, here are some of our most ardent supporters. We have received the gifts of food drives from Penfield Library, VEGA, Commissary of SUNY Oswego and various classes on the SUNY Oswego campus.
CSEA Oswego City School District employees conduct food drives several times a year as well as various classes throughout the Oswego City School District. The Ladies Auxiliary of the Elks visits us monthly with food from their many drives. The Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, hockey and Little League teams all spend time collecting food to donate to the Human Concerns Center.
We would also be remiss if we did not acknowledge the role that local churches play in our organization.
They are our guardian angels supplying us with food and money throughout the year. The churches support us through food drives, garage sales, and money donations. They are essential to our existence and we thank them for all that they do.
Also vital to our existence, are the individual donors who honor us by sending one-time checks, monthly checks, checks in memory of beloved individuals and bequests. They have made sure those in need in the Oswego community will never go without.
Where else can you experience people coming through the door and handing you money or canned goods? Where else can you see the garbage disappear each week without ever seeing a bill? (Thanks, Mr. Butler). It happens on a daily basis at Human Concerns and it is incredible.
We also need to thank the United Way of Oswego County. Without its help in funding our program through the donations of the community, it would be difficult to finance out operation. The advice of their director, Melanie Trexler, and the support of the Stone Soup campaign all contribute to the success of our program.
All of the above groups are indispensable to our mission, but it is the volunteers who work almost 365 days a year that sustain us as well.
Some of our volunteers work three-hour shifts during the week to serve our clients while others unload the trucks that arrive every two weeks with the food we have purchased from the Food Bank of Central New York.
One of our volunteers writes the thank you notes that we send to each of our contributors while another is in charge of our finances and tax forms. If you received a series of photos depicting the volunteers of the Human Concerns Center, you would see volunteers ordering food from the Food Bank of Central New York, unloading food from their trucks, painting our house, raking the yard, cleaning, speaking in front of civic groups, taking photos, and writing for the media. You probably get the picture.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
The people of Oswego and the volunteers of Human Concerns are part of that change in our community and isn’t that wonderful.
Deborah Deeb, Director,
on behalf of all the volunteers