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EOC: Now More Than Ever
Holiday Appeal Begins December 1
BALLSTON SPA – “We are committed to help people overcome barriers.”
So stated Former Saratoga Springs Mayor A.C. Riley, a Past President, current Board Member and Chair of the Community Liaison Committee of the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council (EOC), an agency that provides a variety of programs and services – all designed to enable individuals and families to reach self-sufficiency.
EOC clients are not just the hardcore unemployed or impoverished. Even in a relatively affluent county like Saratoga, their programs offer a crucial lifeline to a wider section of the community that struggles with financial uncertainty and distress every day.
There are many ways that people can support the diverse programs EOC provides. EOC will be launching its annual Holiday Appeal beginning December 1, and they will be accepting cash and food donations at the Canadian Pacific holiday train when it arrives at the Saratoga Springs Train Station this Saturday, November 28 at 7:20 p.m. “Last year, through the generosity of the public (at the Holiday Train) we received 1,100 pounds of food, $200 in on-site donations with a $4,000 check to support our food programs,” said EOC Executive Director Anita Paley. “It was four times better attended than the previous year.”
A tour of EOC’s facility, at 39 Bath Street in Ballston Spa, brought many surprises. Riley and Paley described and demonstrated a wide array of services and programs available through EOC, delivered in a welcoming and non-judgmental atmosphere, all designed to help people help themselves. “We are not paternalistic, it’s about developing goals and giving people the means to achieve them,” Riley noted.
EOC’s programs run the gamut from affordable housing and energy assistance and weatherization programs; to food pantry and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition programs; Head Start, career preparation and language education courses; from soup kitchen lunches to tax preparation and family development services. These and other programs are delivered in an atmosphere of hope, collegial goal development and empowerment.
“We are constantly conducting needs assessments of the community,” Anita Paley noted, “and we raise funds and develop programs based on those assessments. The bottom line is that people want to work. We provide support systems, and programs to give people the means to do so.”
While the variety of programs can be characterized as a pleasant surprise, a sobering fact is that the population that needs EOC’s programs is broader than people might generally believe. “It is much more than the unemployed,” Riley stated. “Many of our clients have two working adults in the household.”
To that end, not all of EOC’s programs are income-based. The food pantry as labeled “barrier free” – making it responsive to a need that might be greater than generally believed. “People who don’t meet ‘income standards’ can still be hungry,” Riley said. The food pantry accepts donations year-round from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday. The emphasis is on items that contribute to a balanced diet: Anita Paley noted the generosity of local farms and groceries that made available items such as grass-fed beef and other items rarely available in food pantries. As much as they receive, it often barely covers the demand.
“We do get the most donations of food around this time of the year, but it gets depleted quickly,” Paley said. In addition to food, EOC accepts donations of clothing (clean coats, hats, scarves, mittens and socks are most needed now) and even pet food donations are welcome.
In addition to providing needed funds for their core services, part of EOC’s mission has a goal to provide appropriate referrals to other agencies/organizations where relevant, as well as advocacy at the county/city level.
EOC’s Holiday Appeal is one of their major fundraising efforts. Your contributions help to fill large gaps in areas of the “safety net” that would otherwise be unmet. It is important to recognize what your donations help fund, and what they do not.
For this is not a government handout. It is not welfare. It is all about providing people with the means to help themselves and break the constricting cycle of poverty.
At holiday time, as we gather with loved ones and count our blessings, consider all the ways that the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council is making a difference in our neighbors’ lives. At the heart of their name is their concise message: Opportunity. This is a perfect time of year to consider giving a leg up to those in our community who want to walk on their own.
To learn more about EOC’s services, donation and volunteer opportunities, visit saratogaeoc.org/opportunities-with-eoc/donate/
Adopt-A-Family Provides Thanksgiving Feasts
Saratoga Springs — For the better part of the last 20 years, the Saratoga County Opportunity Council and the community action group "Adopt-a-Family" have been helping local families, who don't have the funds, purchase food for their Thanksgiving meal at a low price.
With one meal costing $25, there are currently 750 families that have signed up for the baskets that include cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing mix, instant potatoes, apple sauce, corn, green beans, canned yams, a 5-pound bag of fresh potatoes from a local farmer, a bag of fresh carrots, a bag of fresh apples and a $10 gift card to price chopper for a turkey, Tofurky or ham.
Of that 750, Michele Riggi will be providing a Thanksgiving meal for over 25 families with her donation of $625. She has helped the action group for the last 10 years.
“Her support is just amazing,” said Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council Community Service Director Lillian McCarthy. “We’re very grateful for her assistance with this.
The program started back when Skidmore College initiated the idea and reached out to the EOC to put the baskets together. Continuing the helpful tradition, one basket size varies depending on the size of the family.
This holiday season, over 500 baskets are helping feed families in the two to four-person family range.
“We are one of the largest food pantries in the county and being the community action agency for the county, we service low income throughout,” McCarthy said. “It’s such a burden on a family, especially on a food budget, to add a holiday to it. We collect money from the community at large to adopt our families out and what we do is go around and purchase food, collect donations and do what we can to put baskets together, so when families come in they have everything they need to make a Thanksgiving meal for their family.”
Although the time for signups in the full month of October has passed, there is still an opportunity to get baskets. Since moving to the new location in Ballston Spa, the EOC will now be distributing them from the Living Springs Community Church in Saratoga on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, for “Last Chance Pickup.”
“Anyone who didn’t have the opportunity to come in and sign up for a Thanksgiving basket or maybe didn’t need one in the month of October, but now finds themselves in the circumstance where they do need them, they can come in starting at 9 a.m. in the morning and we will distribute whatever baskets we have left,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy added that there are always some individuals who sign up, but do not end up picking up the baskets.
For those who signed up in October and still need baskets, they can pick them up on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday at the church located at 59 Pine Road (corner of Washington Avenue and Pine Road).
In addition, on Thanksgiving Day, individuals can go to the soup kitchen at the Presbyterian— New England Congregational Church, 24 Circular Street, for a full meal provided by the Olde Bryan Inn.
There is also the opportunity for meals to be delivered to homes on Thanksgiving Day by calling the main office at (518) 288-3206 or calling saratogaeoc.org.
If anyone wants to contribute to the EOC’s Thanksgiving tradition, donations are always welcome and very much appreciated.