March 23, 2020

Feeding the community: In Rondout Valley, it takes a union

Author: Liza Frenette
Source:  NYSUT Communications
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Caption: ON THE MOVE: Rondout Valley union members are stepping up to help their local pantry meet requests for food, stocking, sorting and distributing items. Photo provided.

Not only is it full steam ahead, but it’s full team ahead for hundreds of teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, aides and clerical staff in Rondout Valley who are joining together each day to make sure their students and families are fed while school is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Inside school buildings, cafeteria workers prepare meals, which teachers and SRPs then bag along with a beverage to distribute at tables outside the two elementary schools and the high school, practicing social distancing in the process. Families can stop and pick up enough food for a few days at a time. Union members are also making home deliveries to families unable to travel to the school pickup sites. The food is dropped off without making direct contact.

There’s more. These stalwart educators and staff are also volunteering at the local Rondout Valley Food Pantry, which has been overwhelmed with requests.

“This is a very rural area. We have a lot of families in need,” said Kim McEvoy, a senior account clerk in the district office and charge-ahead member of the Rondout Valley Federation of Teachers and School-Related Professionals. “Our local’s been doing a lot of wonderful things, as have other locals. Our union is definitely coming together.”

She said the district already has a connection with the food pantry, which typically provides granola bars or other afternoon snacks for hungry high schoolers when classes are in session. Now, teachers and SRPs are showing up to help the pantry meet requests for food, stocking, sorting and distributing items.

McEvoy said the other day everyone was so busy working for hours in the food pantry that suddenly she asked, “Has anyone had anything to eat?” No one had. She placed a takeout order for lunch from a local business — for the union members and all the pantry volunteers. RVF President Robert McDonough said the union would pay the costs.

“We take care of everyone in our community,” said McEvoy proudly. “We thought that all these things would take us down — like Janus — but nothing is going to take this union down. We take care of our communities.”

“I know these are the most troubling times of our lives, and perhaps generations,” McDonough told union members. “Seeing what I’ve seen this past week, selfless acts of kindness, generosity and community service by the RVF give me hope that whatever lies ahead we will get through it together. Hundreds of RVF members came out to help feed our community this past week and many more have signed up to help out in the weeks that lie ahead.”

“Our SRPs, together with educators, are critical mass to help our communities through these days of crisis,” said NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale, who oversees the SRP constituency through NYSUT’s Program Services. “They continue to demonstrate the premise we constantly raise on how they are essential players in our communities.”

McEvoy, who chairs NYSUT’s SRP Advisory Committee, said local businesses are also offering takeout to those in need. Cherries Deli, Lydia’s Café and Benny’s Pizzeria have been providing grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken soup or pizza.

The district is also providing childcare, through the YMCA, by sponsoring children in one of the schools who are the offspring of first responders. Doctors, nurses, firefighters, police, EMT’s and lab personnel can bring their children to the school for childcare.

“I commend our superintendent (Joseph Morgan) for taking care of who needs to be taken care of,” McEvoy said.

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