Friday, January 17, 2014

Volunteers pitch in for Martin Luther King day of service

BINGHAMTON — As soft rock tunes played in the background, Amanda Barker’s paintbrush strokes added some shine to the bookshelf’s new red coat. Across town, Jessica Spellane was filling up on bundles food to sort out for those who need it most.

Giving back was the theme driving volunteers who toiled Thursday at projects around the Binghamton area as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, a prelude to the approaching holiday with community volunteer projects organized through the Broome County United Way.

At the YMCA in Johnson City, Barker and 10 fellow AmeriCorps volunteers splashed the childrens’ play and game room with hues of green, purple and red. They also cleaned up some toys children use each day in the facility.

“They needed a lot of revitalizing here,” said Barker, 25, of Newark Valley. “It makes kids smile, and I love making kids smile — I have a 4-year-old girl myself — and I want to instill in her the same values I was brought up with.”

Endicott resident Jay Vassil, the YMCA maintenance supervisor, said the play room serves for after-school, day care and other childrens’ activities year-round.

At the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse in Binghamton, a handful of volunteers helped CHOW organizers with their routine post-holiday sorting of thousands of items of donated non-perishable food items to distribute to the local food pantries.

Shopping carts overflowed with pasta, jars of peanut butter, soups and more.

“We’re flushed with food,” said Stephen Kamper, CHOW agency relations manager. “The community did a tremendous job this year supporting us.”

As she picked out a range of items to set aside for needy families, Spellane, 22, of Vestal, said she didn’t think twice about pitching in for the cause.

“I’ve grown up in this community and it’s very important to give back,” she said. “Poverty is a big problem, so this is a great opportunity.”

The day of service involved six projects in Broome County, funded through a $5,000 grant awarded by the Regional Volunteer Center of the Southern Tier.

“We hope the sites where we do the projects learn more about young people volunteering and how helpful they can be,” said Joni Kaiser, the United Way community impact and engagement manager.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

CHOW gets donations, a visit from Santa

December 15, 2013

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) On Sunday, Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse held a day with Santa, asking for donations for those in need.

Children gave Santa a few items from their Christmas lists, and families dropped off donations for CHOW.

Organizers said they expected around 200 people to come out for the event. They asked community members to drop off non-perishable food items for others who need them.

CHOW organizers said it's especially heartwarming to see children donate to others.

"There's so many young people that are in need, so it's a really nice process," said CHOW Director Michael Leahey. "Young people come in and they have a great time."

Last year, CHOW received nearly 1,000 lbs. of food.

By Megan Carpenter

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A big present for CHOW

Endicott, NY- Shoppers walking into the Weis in West Corners may have wondered about what appeared to be a giant present in the middle of the store.

With the help of its shoppers Weis made a large donation to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse.

That present was full of food donations that were loaded into the CHOW truck Friday morning.

Along with the food Weis also made a corporate donation of $15,000.

These donations are coming during an especially difficult year for CHOW.

"Seventy percent of the students that go to Binghamton High School are on free or reduced lunch programs when those students don't have the schools to depend on what ends up happening is they go to pantries," said Joe Sellepack of CHOW.

Sellepack went on to say that longer break is what puts the extra strain on CHOW to keep food pantries stocked and this donation from Weis will go a long way.

By Sam Gaddes

Matthews Subaru to host kid and pet photos with Santa to benefit CHOW

December 9, 2013
CHOW, the Community Hunger Outreach Program of the Broome County Council of Churches, is in desperate need of food donations this holiday season.

According to a news release:

The public is encouraged to bring non-perishable food items or a cash donation for CHOW to Matthews Subaru at 3013 Old Vestal Road in Vestal (Behind Lowe’s) through January 2nd.

As part of Subaru’s national “Share the Love” initiative, Subaru will donate $250 from the sale of any new Subaru  vehicle to CHOW or the buyer’s choice of 5 other national charities through January 2nd.

To enhance the food drive, Matthews will be hosting “Kid and Pet Photos with Santa” on Thursday December 12th from 6pm to 8pm with free human and dog cookies, candy, balloons and beverages. Parents are encouraged to bring their cameras and nonperishable food items for CHOW.

“This is an especially demanding time for meeting the needs of hungry people in Broome County and this event is a wonderful opportunity for people to share their resources to make things a little easier for folks facing food insecurity,” noted Rev. Dr. Joseph Sellepack, executive director of the Council.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Life Lived: Vestal resident was active in Council of Churches, local choirs

When somebody like Ray Hull leaves the earth, holes suddenly appear.

“Ray was a very important person around here,” said the Rev. Dr. Joseph Sellepack, executive director of the Broome County Council of Churches. “He served on the budget and finance committee until he died.”

Ray had also served as treasurer of the board for years and, using his engineering background, as liaison between the building crew and the board of directors for the new Council building on the South Side of Binghamton.

“Whenever I had a building question, I called Ray,” Sellepack said.

Sellepack hadn’t been aware Ray had died on Oct. 15 at age 74 until he got what sounded like a routine phone call.

“We got a call from a lawyer who said we were named in the estate,” Sellepack said. “I asked if Ray was updating his will or something, and the lawyer said, ‘No, he died.’”

Those three words flabbergasted Sellepack, who’d often pick up the phone to find Ray on the other end, just calling to see how life was going.

Friends and family flocked to Ray’s memorial service on Nov. 30.

Man with the answers

Ray was the go-to guy at Longford Lake, too, while it was planning for its new sewer system, said Bob Alspaugh, who lived near Ray’s cottage there, in Brackney, Pa..

“If Ray wasn’t around for some reason, everybody got all excited because nobody else knew anything,” he said. At one early meeting, Ray hauled in three boxes of documents, containing blueprints for the lake’s dam, a map of the lake, and other papers that predated Ray’s time owning property there. “He became the informal historian.”

Hudda Aswad, of Binghamton, knew that Ray and his late and much-beloved wife Sharon, who died in 2009, had been particularly close.

They never had children but devoted time to various community causes, such as the Phelps Mansion Museum.

They enjoyed their home in Vestal and their place at the lake — and they loved cats.

“After Sharon died, the last cat died, and he never got another one,” Aswad said.

Ray was a sensitive man shaken to his roots when Sharon died unexpectedly during surgery, leaving him painfully alone. His three siblings live in Maryland, California and Tennessee.

Mr. Perfection

Indeed, Ray was no ordinary guy, said longtime friend Lou Perman, of Binghamton.

“He was a very intense person,” Perman said. “He would have everything all thought out before he started anything — a typical engineer. There’s always a better way of doing things. And I never knew him with his hair messed up, never saw him needing a haircut.”

Ray had retired after a long career with NYSEG. 

Perman worked side-by-side with Ray at Tuesday night work meetings at Tabernacle United Methodist Church, where administrative assistant Mal Cohen remembers him and his wife singing in the choir, then under the direction of locally renowned music man Alan Crabb.

He sang baritone to Sharon’s alto, and they reveled in the fellowship.

“He’d have choir parties in his house,” Cohen said.

Ray wasn’t only in the choir, but generally assisted with the hiring of the organist and choir director whenever an opening arose, explained longtime friend and fellow Tabernacle member David Gouldin.

“Ray was very bright, well-organized and a very solid financial thinker,” said attorney Gouldin, a partner with Levene Gouldin and Thompson LLP in Vestal. “He did a great deal to carry our church on his shoulders during his years of leadership here.”

The addition of contemporary songs at Tabernacle did not meet with Ray’s approval, and the Hulls began singing in the choir at United Presbyterian Church in Binghamton.

Music is the context in which Barbara Hickling, of Endwell, will best remember him.

“If there was a music event going on in this valley, he would be likely to turn up to sing,” she said.

When he made his annual pilgrimage to the Bach Festival in Bethlehem, Pa., he made his reservation for the next year.

That festival will now be missing one of its most enthusiastic supporters.

Written by
Valerie Zehl

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Choruses unite to help CHOW

The 10th Annual Choruses for CHOW Benefit Concert will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church, 380 Main St., Johnson City.

The concert, which raises money for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) of the Broome County Council of Churches, will feature the Binghamton Downtown Singers, the Montrose Christmas Chorale, the Bronzissimo! Bell Choir, the Carousel Harmony Chorus, the Endwell Community Chorus and the Southerntiersmen Barbershop Chorus.

The individual groups will perform a range of musical styles and combine for a grand finale.

The timing of the event is especially important, as the need for food spikes at this time of year, because Broome County students who participate in food nutrition programs in their schools will be on extended breaks during December.

Tickets in advance are $8 and can be purchased by calling the Broome County Council of Churches at 724-9130.

Tickets also will be sold at the door for $10.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Competition of cans for CHOW

Vestal, NY (WBNG Binghamton) It was the battle of the cans between Vestal and Binghamton High Schools.

Each school had two weeks to collect as many canned foods as possible. All of those items are now headed to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW).

"It really couldn't come at a better time," said Mike Leahey, director of CHOW. "We're coming up on the holidays and a very long school break where a lot of students who stuffer with food insecurity -- they'll be at home without the breakfast and lunch the schools provides so this is going to directly affect them."

Vestal won the competition by collecting more than 1,900 cans with around 3,500 food items collected between both schools.

"For me personally, what makes it all worth while is that it's staying in the community," said Nathan Grossman, a senior at Vestal High School. "I think it's great that we can know it in our hearts that it can stay in the area and it's going to improve the lives of the people in Binghamton."

All of the food was loaded up on a truck on Tuesday and delivered to CHOW.

It will then be distributed to the 60 CHOW programs in Broome County.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Food-A-Bago drive kicks off to end holiday hunger

Town of Chenango, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The 13th Annual Food-A-Bago kicked off Monday as a campaign to spread generosity and help to your neighbors.

Local radio stations are asking you to put a few extra items in your cart on your next trip to the grocery store. The non-perishables will be collected with the goal of filling an RV, which will then be picked up by the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW), and then distributed to families in need.

99.1 The Whale, Wild 104, 98.1 The Hawk, and WNBF will be broadcasting live from the RV and encouraging the community to stop by and make donations.

"We've had years where we've collected ten tons of food. Whatever we can get to, even a little helps," said Don Morgan, brand manager for 99.1 The Whale and Wild 104.

Morgan said there is a greater need this year, as the economy teeters and children go on Christmas break.

"Kids are out for about two weeks, which means they don't get the lunch at school two times a day," Morgan added.

Food-A-Bago will continue through Monday, November 11. Non-perishable items can be dropped off from 6 AM to 6 PM on weekdays, and 8 AM to 8 PM this weekend.

Bins are located at MainSource in the Town of Chenango, and Warner's Gas Service in Conklin.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Restaurant Week scores another hit in Binghamton

Restaurant Week co-founder Piero Lisio of Little Venice Restaurant, right, presents an $8,534 check to Mike Leahey, director of the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse. Restaurant Week organizers held a news conference Friday touting the event's success in boosting local business and helping a local charity. / ANTHONY BORRELLI / Staff Photo

Restaurant Week — a 10-day event to promote Binghamton’s dining diversity — wrapped up Sept. 26 with a record-breaking 21,822 meals served and $8,534 worth of proceeds donated to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW), organizers announced Friday at a news conference in Remlik’s Grille & Oyster Bar.

Restaurant Week has two editions each year. Chefs at 24 participating restaurants develop their own three-course menus for the event, each tailored for new and returning diners as a guide for what the restaurant has to offer.

The first Restaurant Week four years ago featured seven restaurants that served 6,800 meals during the event.

“When it started, it was an idea we thought would spur people to eat downtown,” said Piero Lisio, a partner at Little Venice Restaurant and the event’s co-founder. “We thought it would not only boost business, but also help a local charity and it’s since expanded.”

Mike Leahey, director of CHOW, said the funds will be a critical help for those in the community who depend on food donations, especially as the holiday season approaches.

CHOW provided more than 700,000 free meals to the needy in 2012. An estimated 40 percent of those served were children, Leahey said.

“We’re very thankful we live in a community where people support our local businesses and our businesses support a charity,” he said.

The previous Restaurant Week in March raised $7,259 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Binghamton.

In addition to its charitable element, Restaurant Week serves as sales boost for local eateries.

Joshua B. Ludzki, a Restaurant Week co-organizer, said the dedication of servers, dishwashers and other restaurant staff play as key a role in the success as the teamwork of restaurant owners who employ them.

“It would be really easy for these restaurants to be competitors,” Ludzki said. “Instead, what we have in Binghamton is this incredible cooperation.”

Restaurant owners said the event plays a key role in encouraging customers to explore new places and fill up tables during weekdays that might otherwise be slow.

“It’s great to see all the new faces; this has been our busiest Restaurant Week ever,” said Ed Wesoloski, a partner at Remlik’s.

Coupled with the recent influx of students and young professionals, events like Restaurant Week have helped create “a vibrancy that hasn’t been downtown for many years,” said Binghamton Mayor Matthew T. Ryan.

Another factor in helping the event prosper has been its ability to draw more customers from local communities outside Binghamton, Lisio said.

“Our hope is that people keep coming here even when it’s not Restaurant Week,” Lisio said. “It’s impossible to eat at all the restaurants in 10 days, so support them year-round — that’s the big message.”

Written by
Anthony Borrelli

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ending hunger, step by step

Vestal, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The 31st annual CHOW Hunger Walk drew hundreds to Binghamton University Sunday.

With every step, the people of Broome County were one step closer to ending hunger in their community.

"People don't realize that some people don't have any food," said Gavi Hecht, a Binghamton University sophomore.

The money raised will benefit the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, also known as CHOW.
CHOW gave out more than 700,000 free meals last year.

For every dollar donated, they are able to provide four more meals to those in need.

The director of CHOW, Mike Leahey, said the organization gives out more than 100,000 free meals each month to Broome County's homeless and hungry.

"Our goal is to provide 200,000 additional meals to the community," he said. "Over forty percent of the meals we provide every month go to our children in this community, so that's just heartbreaking."

Leahey said he expected up to 1,000 people to come out for the cause.

The crowd included numerous Binghamton University students, some working the event as volunteers.

"It's a good way to benefit the less fortunate," said Johnathan Mendez, a member of Sigma Beta Rho fraternity. "I'm just volunteering myself, a helping hand with all of my friends, so show everyone a good time while you're walking for a good cause."

Putting their feet to the pavement meant an opportunity to learn.

According to CHOW, more than 33,000 people in Broome County are living in poverty.

"If you think about the percentages of people that are starving, I mean just look at ten people I don't know, but maybe three or two of them are starving," Gavi Hecht said,"I think it's important that everybody not only comes out here to support, but finds out what else they can do to help."

CHOW has 30 food pantries and 30 soup kitchens across Broome County.

Over 700 volunteer at 31st annual CHOW walk

Binghamton University students and Broome County residents gathered at the East Gym on Sunday to satisfy their hunger for fundraising.
Volunteers from the student body and local community participate in the 31st annual Hunger Walk Sunday afternoon. Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) held the walk, which circled campus around the Brain.
Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) held its 31st annual Hunger Walk, with an estimated 700 to 1000 volunteers attending to help the cause, according to CHOW director Michael Leahey.

Since 1976, CHOW, along with the University’s Center for Civil Engagement (CCE), has been providing free food to those in need in Broome County.

“It’s our best opportunity to be able to highlight the issue of hunger in the community and to be able to educate people about the issue of hunger,” Leahey said. “For every dollar we raise it ends up providing four meals in the community.”

Since 1982, CHOW, which is managed by the Broome County Council of Churches, invited Broome County residents and BU students to walk to raise awareness and funds for the less fortunate. CHOW donated over 700,000 free meals last year.

“We moved to campus a few years ago, and we have a lot of students’ support,” Leahey said. “With that move, Sodexo, they donated food. Everyone has really donated a lot of time, a lot of volunteers. We’re very lucky.”

Collaboration between CCE, community members and the University seems to be helping CHOW’s turnout. CHOW has 30 pantries and two farms. Broome Bounty, a division of CHOW, is the sole food recovery program in the county, collecting food from local suppliers.

Other fundraisers such as the Jim “Mudcat” Grant All-Star Golf Tournament and the Great New York State Chili Championship also aim to raise funds and awareness about hunger in the community. In 2012, CHOW reportedly served about two million pounds of food to those in need in Broome County through its soup kitchens and community meal programs.

“We do little things, we do big things. It involves a huge community, and I think every year we have more people that have never walked before,” said Carol Herz, a local resident of Binghamton and a CHOW volunteer for the past three years.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Around the Tiers: CHOW Hunger Walk

 Broome County Council of Churches will host its 31st annual CHOW Hunger Walk.
The 31st Annual CHOW Hunger Walk will be held Sunday, October 20 on the campus at Binghamton University.

Walkers may obtain registration envelopes prior to the walk at the Broome County Council of Churches office at 3 Otseningo St., Binghamton or call 724-9130 for more information.

You may also register beginning at 1 p.m. the day of the walk, which begins at 2 p.m.

Each individual raising $50 or more will receive a free walk t-shirt. All participants receive buttons.

The walk will be on the campus of Binghamton University and the walk and activities will begin at the East Gym.

Immediately after the walk, there will be free food, live music by the Beatles Band, appearances by the B-Mets and Senators Mascots, the ZooMobile, the Magic Paintbrush Project, bagpipers and games for children.

The goal for the walk is raising funds to provide 250,000 meals for hungry people in Broome County. Individuals, families and groups are invited to participate.

By Chelsea Bishop

Monday, October 14, 2013

CHOW Hunger Walk

The holiday season means a lot of things to different people, but to those in poverty-especially children- it can mean struggling for food.

The Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse will have its 31st Annual CHOW Hunger Walk October 20th at the East Gym at Binghamton University.

This year their will be live music, the Broome County Zoomobile, and activities from the Magic Paintbrush Project.

Through CHOW's program,  every one dollar raised is leveraged into seven dollars in food, which provides four meals.

"The cold weather is settling in and the holidays are coming, and that always provides a spike for us with a need for emergency food assistance. I'd like to remind the community that we have approximately a two week school break this year and we have thousands of young people who live in poverty who won't have access to those meals," said Mike Leahey the Director of CHOW. 

CHOW has provided more than 700,000 free meals in 2012 40% of the recipients were children according to the Broome County Council of Churches.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Giving Back and Sticking Around?

Students looking to volunteer and community organizations gathered in the Mandela Room at BU Thursday in hopes of helping each other. Students are given the chance to possibly earn credit for internships, form long lasting partnerships or just help out where ever they're needed.

"This is a great opportunity. We've had hundreds of students come by already, we're very excited about talking to them about how they could be of help to us and how we might be able to help them," said Larry Denniston of the Broome County Council of Churches.

Larry Denniston from the Broome County Council of Churches has been working very closely with one student run volunteer group to prepare for a hunger walk.

"We help out the community by just putting on events for people. If an organization comes to us and they say they need this amount of volunteers to run a 5K we will provide those volunteers for them and help them out in any way we can," said Erin Small of the Student Volunteer Center.

And helping the community may help keep these students in the community after graduation.

"And often this turns into something more than just volunteering sometimes they'll do an internship for credit. Sometimes they graduate and they're even hired locally which is something we're always striving for," said Allison Alden the Director of the Center of Civic Engagement at BU.

"Going on out of college I know a lot of different people from the community that I never would have met if I had just sat in my dorm so it was really rewarding that way," said Erin Small.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Vestal High School’s Soccer Teams Kick off CHOW Drive

From the Vestal Central School District:

This year, student athletes on the Vestal High School soccer varsity and junior varsity teams are teaming up with the Broome County Council of Churches to help “kick out” hunger in our area.

September is National Hunger Awareness Month, and our players have been collecting nonperishable food items this month and continuing throughout the soccer season. We’re asking for your help. On September 25, the players will wear “Got CHOW?” T-shirts to school as part of a push to collect more food donations at both home games against Maine-Endwell that evening.

Community members can drop off cans or boxes of non-perishable food items at any of the boys and girls junior varsity or varsity home soccer games at Dick Hoover Stadium. CHOW barrels will be set up next to the concession stand through the end of October.

Currently, the Golden Bears soccer teams’ home games schedule is:

September 25, 4:30 p.m. JV Boys & 7 p.m. Varsity Boys

September 26, 7 p.m. Varsity Girls

October 4, 4 p.m., Varsity Boys

October 8, 4:30 p.m., Varsity Girl