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Albany, NY 12209


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Monday, February 7, 2011

Catholic Charities Help Those in Need Help Themselves

All Good made our first visit to the Mercy House Women's Shelter near downtown Albany on Friday.  As we slowly navigated a few steep, slippery hills in our VW bus trying to find it, Nick and I discussed our mutual excitement - for a long time we have wanted find a way to regularly donate bread directly to people who don't have many opportunities to consume healthy, sustainable, local foods.  Without your help, we couldn't make it happen! We are really grateful to those who have contributed loaves, ideas and support, thank you.

We were welcomed at the front door of Mercy House by a lovely woman (in the interest of privacy, we'll say "B") who gave us a tour and some history.  This Women's Shelter was opened in the 70's by the Catholic Charities and is in the former rectory of St. Joseph's Church, across the street.  There are 6 bedrooms, 4 beds to a room (with 2 single rooms upstairs for those in the Independent Living Program), a long galley kitchen, a small living room for most of the residents to share with a more private one upstairs, and a dining room/play area (more pictures here:  Most residents are there for only one short month - they come from the streets of the Capital Region, homeless, some with illnesses, looking for jobs, a place to live, some support.  The residents are all making a heroic effort to secure a safer place for themselves emotionally and in our community.  The bread we (together) provide will be a small, but worthwhile, component of the overall health benefits their stay at Mercy House hopefully affords them.  The Charities emphasize their aim is to help people help themselves.
The loaves we donate will be split between the shelter and the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program.  This program is currently running on a much smaller scale than what is needed.  This year, they are able to officially help resettle only about 10-15 families from Afghanistan, the Congo, Ethiopia, Burma and Iraq.  There are hundreds more families escaping their countries' unrest  - they all need healthy foods, housing, jobs or schooling, and community-building support.  We realize the topic of helping immigrants might strike a controversial chord with some, but in our view, hungry people are hungry people.  We all need community support in some form in our lives.  

We will be taking bread there every Friday and would like to start an addition to the donation program.  There are some items you may have at home that can be donated at our weekly pick-ups on Wednesdays.  Mercy House and the families in the Refugee Resettlement Program are in need of some specific items that can go from your closet or kitchen directly into the hands of someone who needs it.  Here's a current list of some things they need right away:
  • Pajamas - men, women -large appreciated, children 7-18 years
  • Winter clothing, especially for children 7-18 years.  Hats, scarves, gloves, snowboots/wear, sweaters, coats...
  • Toiletries - New toothbrushes, deoderant, toothpaste, shaving cream, lotions, brushes/combs, etc.
  • Underwear (new, obviously!)
  • Food!  Fresh is definitely appreciated, especially in winter; we'll deliver non-perishables too
Since we'll be stopping by every Friday, we can accomplish something with that last one - getting fresh food in the bellies of those who really need it.  Remember, the Food Bank programs can pretty much only deliver non-perishables which aren't always the healthiest foods to eat, for anyone.  
We plan to expand on this idea.  Stick with me a little longer for an exciting new development: we had a Winter "Greenhouse" party with our friends, Farmers Jon, DJ, Ross from Raven's Roost & families, in Selkirk on Saturday.  [We traded bread for produce with Jon all last summer - he's got two huge lots & a produce stand on Rt 9W and is growing sustainable produce under organic practices (yay!) available at 3 local markets, including Saturdays in Delmar.] After filling our bellies with delicious potluck food from the farm and a warmed fermented apple concoction of Jon's grandmother's, we checked out the greenhouse.  Jon and I discussed finding a way to glean his produce to donate to these programs - he is on board and through the growing season we'll be taking fresh produce to Mercy House for them to distribute!  Truly exciting news that directly addresses our mission - supporting local farms and bringing healthy food to the community.  
Here's Jon maintaining even heat for his furnace with corn cob - he hooks up hosing from the furnace to heat his mini-greenhouse-within-a-greenhouse for seed sprouting.  
The proper humidity and heat must be maintained daily.  Farmers are getting things done, even in all this ever-lovin' snow!  We're helping to market Jon's CSA this year - I'll be documenting his growing season and creating a new blog for him.  He's got an innovative punch card system that allows you to buy into the farm in $100 increments - each $100 = $112 in produce and you can pick what you like or get a "farmer's choice" bushel of bounty from the fields each week.  You can purchase more than one punch card at a time - now is when farmers need your advance support!  Email him if you'd like to know more about it:  Joining Jon's CSA now means supporting more fresh produce for those in need this upcoming season.  It's not too early to start thinking about fresh tomatoes!  We can tell you from experience that Jon's produce is stellar, and he grows a ton of different vegetables (plus they raise pigs).  The corn last year was unreal!

Thanks for sticking with this long post - if you have time left to leave a comment, we'll give away a "big ol' box of baked goods" in a random drawing of those who post here or on facebook to reward your perseverance and commitment :)   Winter contest! Woo-hoo!

Your bakers,
Britin & Nick

p.s.: 100% New York Organic White is in!  We have a tiny bit of Greenmarket Whole Wheat to finish up - then we start using our 90% NY grown WW.  We're now using 60% locally grown and milled organic grains.  This is a major step forward for us!


  1. Love all of the community-mindedness :) What great charities to benefit, I wouldn't have thought of them but am so glad that you both did. Also, very exciting news about the 100% NY Organic White flour!

  2. The bread donation program is great!

    I like the different way Jon sets up his CSA, I'll have to check it out for this year!

  3. OK, not convinced - to put it mildly! - by Catholicism; but seems to be a well-intended project.

  4. We are religion-neutral Ewan, but do feel these programs are making a valiant effort to give support (in many ways) to people who need it.