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Holiday Giving Chain at UAlbany

December 1, 2008

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Volunteers carrying boxes of food.

From left, UAlbany School of Social Welfare Dean Katharine Briar-Lawson, Trinity CEO and UAlbany alumnus Harris Oberlander, MSW student Diane Danen, and associate professor Lani Jones helped out. (Photo Cathie Gifford)

At Thanksgiving time, School of Social Welfare Dean Katharine Briar-Lawson notified the school about an unprecedented demand for food at the Mechanicville Area Community Services Center pantry. She asked students, faculty, and staff to find a way to help.

Lani Jones, UAlbany associate professor of Social Welfare and vice president of Trinity Institution-Homer Perkins Center's board of directors, was among those receiving the e-mail. Jones passed the word to Trinity, which has food pantries in Arbor Hill and in Albany's South End, and fed 8,500 people last year.  "How can you sit with your pocket half full when others have nothing in their pocket?" she said.

Briar-Lawson said it is unusual for one not-for-profit agency to find money and fund another, "but that's what Trinity did. This is a moving example of not just individuals or institutions making a difference, but of agencies stepping in and stepping up to help other agencies."

UAlbany students Kate DeCarlo of Buffalo, N.Y., Megan Cook of Phoenix, N.Y., and Diane Danen of Levittown, N.Y., pitched in and moved boxes of donated food when the Mechanicville pantry's staff arrived to pick up the food at the dean's office.

“I just thought about what I saw on the news last night -- how families are struggling and food pantries are low on food," said Cook. The problem extends to families who have never sought help from a food pantry before. 

Trinity CEO Harris Oberlander, who graduated from UAlbany in 1980, was all for the collaboration. "As a member of the Family Support Network of United Way, we (at Trinity) are connected to one another, and in a situation such as what Mechanicville was experiencing, we are happy to share our resources to ensure people are well taken care of."

Katherine D. Pelham, CEO of United Way of the Greater Capital Region, Inc., said, "The generosity of heart between Trinity and Mechanicville Community Center is a true example of interagency cooperation and keeping the mission of helping people front and center."

Together, UAlbany's School of Social Welfare and Trinity Institution donated more than $700 and many boxes of food.

And others at UAlbany are also finding a way to give during especially difficult economic times. The University Police Department is spearheading a toys-for-tots campaign, while UAlbany student athletes are contributing some 800 hours of community services throughout the fall semester. And in a continuation of an annual tradition, the Graduate Student Organization teams up with the Office of International Education to host a Thanksgiving dinner for students and others unable to return home during the break.

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