HALFMOON, N.Y. — Volunteers from around southern Saratoga and Rensselaer counties joined with the general manager of a local Toyota dealership last week to see that 1,200 Thanksgiving dinners were provided to families in need.
North Country Toyota of Clifton Park general manager Mike Raucci has quietly been putting together his Thanksgiving meal distribution for the past 13 years.
Raucci and his supporters seek financial donations to help local food pantries, and nonprofits provide families with a proper Thanksgiving dinner. Bit by bit, carload by carload, the fixings arrive at the dealership at 202 Route 146 in Halfmoon. In bags, boxes and on pallets they are stored in a cleared space on the showroom floor between Camrys, Corollas, and Solaras. The frozen turkeys are kept outside in refrigerated trucks.
Last Friday, Nov. 22, with the arrival of volunteers from area food pantries and a group of longtime Raucci supporters, the food was packed into the volunteers’ trucks and sent off to their destination points for distribution to the families.
“It all started 13 years when I read an article in the Express that said there were some families in the Mechanicville area who needed help getting a meal on the table for Thanksgiving,” Raucci said. “I was born and raised in Mechanicville and I love this community. I decided there are too many good people here to let this happen and I started reaching out.”
That reaching out hasn’t stopped, and the generosity of his friends and supporters hasn’t stopped either. This year, Raucci said he was able to raise $20,000 in donations.
The pantries and area nonprofits give Raucci a list of what’s needed and the number of families and he goes out and gets the donations from a large list of generous supporters. Many of the names are very familiar.
The donations are then turned over to a local supermarket which prepares the correct number of turkeys and boxes of fixing. As the distribution day gets closer the turkeys are put in refrigerated trucks and a week before Thanksgiving Day everything is distributed to the appropriate pantries.
“This community is a powerful one,” Raucci said to the supporters and food pantry volunteers surrounding him on the showroom floor. “It’s not about the money, and it’s not about any glory. It’s about feeding people. The people who donate do this for them, and they don’t have any idea who those families are. Every year these people are willing to help. It’s a snapshot of our community. It doesn’t matter when I call, they are always there and their answer is always the same, whatever you need Mike.”
State Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, presented a Senate proclamation to Raucci for his years of effort on behalf of the people in the 43rd Senate District.
Jordan noted that she had attended many of the Thanksgiving distributions when she sat on the Halfmoon Town Board and now that she represents the area in the state Senate she felt there was even more reason to be present.
“When you do goodwill for your community, you do goodwill for business,” she said. “The 1,200 families you’re feeding are residents of the 43rd Senate District.”
Rev. Lynne Hardy of the Schaghticoke United Presbyterian Church was one of several pantry volunteers who attended the distribution. The church pantry was to receive 30 dinners. The meals would feed 80 people.
“We’re a relatively new pantry,” Hardy said. “We opened in April right after the government went on strike. We had people coming to us that weren’t getting their checks. They were asking us how they could put food on the table."
Hardy said while the pantry waits to receive its official designation as a nonprofit food pantry the community in Schaghticoke is supporting it.
“We’ve been raising money any way we can for the last eight months, 50-50 raffles, Girl Scout and Boy Scout donations, through the local school, any way we can think of,” Hardy said. “We’re a true village pantry. We’re a big help for those people who don’t have transportation.”
Quillinan of the Mechanicville Area Community Services Center said her organization would receive 400 meals.
“This is a big help and it’s been that for 13 years,” she said. “Thirteen years ago around this time [of] the year pantries or centers like us were worried how they would meet their needs. With Mike, any (pantry) that calls, he makes sure they get what they need.”
As the forklifts moved pallets of foodstuff out of the showroom and into the open air waiting volunteers moved toward their respective pallets and began to unload them into waiting trucks.
Working to load up the truck destined for the Town of Halfmoon Town Hall were Town Supervisor Kevin Tollisen and Councilman Paul Hotaling. As he lifted boxes of dinner fixings into the truck Tollisen said the town was getting 100 meals.