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Friday, August 14, 2020

Top Stories > General

Local partners deliver meals and hope

Jul 2, 2020

By Patricio Robayo - staff writer

By: PATRICIO ROBAYO | DEMOCRAT
Jason “JJ” Wallace and Isabella Alan, 5, of Woodridge were happy that Martin “Marty” Colavito stopped by in the morning to deliver some food items during the COVID-19 pandemic.
SULLIVAN — Martin “Marty” Colavito, the Community Hub Program Manager of Monticello, starts most of his days at 6 a.m., loading up a van in Liberty at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan (CCE).
He stocks the van with fresh produce, bread, eggs, and various fruit drinks, water, and pre-made meals.
Afterward, he begins his day-long venture out into the county to deliver those items to people in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Colavito not only brings food, but he also brings conversation, laughter and a little bit of light during these troubling times.

Partnering with Sullivan Allies Leading Together (SALT), CCE and several school districts throughout the county, Colavito, along with SALT Program Manager Thomas Bosket saw a need when the state began its stay-at-home order and residents no longer were able to pick up meals at the St. John Street School Community Hub.
Colavito and Bosket wanted to deliver those meals instead. They began to visit senior citizens, veterans, and anyone who needed a meal.
“Tom is a gem; he's a doer, working with Tom is always an honor. This wouldn't be here without Tom,” said Colavito.
Bosket has been riding with Colavito just up until a month ago when he had to move on to become a Drug-Free Communities (DFC) grant coordinator. He said, “Together we make our county strong, no one but us. If you are concerned for someone, reach out and check in. And if you need help in navigating them to services- call SALT.”
What started as a few deliveries mushroomed into a few hundred in a matter of weeks, all through word of mouth.
Since the stay-at-home executive order in March, the team has not missed a single day in delivering food and buying food from various supermarkets to keep a fresh inventory.
Colavito says he is visiting hundreds of people and delivers thousands of meals to people in need throughout the county, all with money and food that has been donated.
“I have 50 stops alone on Liberty Street in Monticello,” said Colavito.
In the beginning, the duo wanted to use their own cars to deliver the meals, but Colleen Monaghan, Executive Director of CCE, said they could use their van until the summer to provide those meals.
Monaghan said, “Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Sullivan County has once again shown its true colors; we are a community of generous donors and committed partnerships, and CCE Sullivan is grateful to serve alongside SALT to make sure our friends and neighbors are seen, fed, and on the way to thriving.”
Colavito said the pandemic did not cause the hunger; it has always been there.
“Ninety percent of the people we serve were hungry to begin with,” said Colavito.
He says many do not have the means or resources to get takeout, delivery, or even to transport themselves to the grocery store. With COVID-19, those hardships were escalated.
“We are all in this together,” said Colavito.
He says many people from the community have stepped up to help, from food donations to financial contributions.
One of those companies is Resorts World Catskills who regularly donates items for Colavito to distribute.
Many of the communities Colavito visits are chipping in themselves to help. Some folks who receive the food help distribute it to their neighbors for Colavito.
Penny Troy is happy when she sees Colavito drive up to her home in Woodridge. She says during these uncertain times, and due to limited income because of a disability, having food items and meals delivered helps her save money and get by.
“Marty is a good guy, we have good conversations when he comes over here,” said Troy.
Colavito says he is doing this to invest in his neighbors, so his grandchildren and everyone's children could have a “better shot” in the future.
Most nights, when he is done with his day, he goes home and worries about whether they will have enough food to deliver to people the next day.
Mary Torres of Woodridge said the food from the program had become a lifesaver for her. She receives limited benefits from Social Services, so the food delivery helps to fill in the gaps.
“He [Colavito] has a good heart; you can see that he cares for people,” said Torres.
Colavito said Dayna Halprin of Early Bird Cookery, along with the Callicoon Food Pantry, has risen to the challenge in a big way.
“I feel grateful that Early Bird Cookery and The Callicoon Pantry have been able to assist the ENGN food donations,” said Halprin.
Halprin said that since the beginning of April, they have been able to donate 8,000 pounds of bulk produce and grains along with hundreds of quarts of chicken stock from local farms and 3,000 prepared meals.
“Marty and Tom have made this possible by working tirelessly to deliver this and many other donations throughout Sullivan County weekly. In a time of crisis, we all need to respond like them,” said Halprin.
Colavito says what he needs the most now is a refrigerated truck to help deliver more meals during the summer and asks anyone in the public if they know of one to contact him.
He says he had made a promise to those who he provides for that, “I won't stop until this [pandemic] is over.”
If you are in need of food or a meal, Colavito says to call him directly at (845) 596-0075.
If you need community services, call SALT, (845) 397-SALT (7258).
If you would like to donate, visit engncntr.com.

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