From left to right, Donald Gougeon, April Veach and Emerson Bernard, all individuals served by ARC, unload food at the Plattsburgh Interfaith Food Shelf.
PLATTSBURGH — Donald Gougeon stared at the truck as it backed up and the driver got out and opened the back doors to the trailer.
Inside, more than 3,200 pounds of food rested on palates; cereal, canned goods, cookies, mashed potatoes and more.
“That’s a lot of food for poor people,” said Gougeon, an individual served by the Advocacy and Resource Center of Clinton County.
Then, he and his friends, April Veach and Emerson Bernard, headed to the back of the truck to begin unloading the food at the Plattsburgh Interfaith Food Shelf on Beekman Street in Plattsburgh.
“This is hard work,” Gougeon said. “I want to do it again.”
For the second year in a row, in recognition of Disabilities Awareness Month, individuals from ARC’s Day Habilitation Services collected food at various sites throughout March.
ARC is a private non-profit human service agency that provides services to the developmentally disabled in Clinton County.
ARC is a chapter of NYSARC, Inc., which provides support and oversight to 51 ARC chapters throughout New York state. ARC is regulated by the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
Once the food was collected, it was delivered to the Plattsburgh Interfaith Food Shelf and the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity’s outreach office in Plattsburgh on April 4.
For 45 years, JCEO has provided services to the low-income community in Clinton County.
JCEO’s Community Outreach Program meets the needs of disabled and elderly individuals and low-income families. There are 11 outreach centers located throughout Clinton County that act as entrance points for people seeking services.
Each center provides information on various services, such as food baskets, clothing and other necessities. Each outreach center has a food pantry for those needing assistance. They provide families with staple foods such as pasta, canned goods and more.
“We provide food on a temporary basis,” said Dorothy Latta, co-coordinator of the Plattsburgh Interfaith Food Shelf. “This is for people, for example, who lose jobs and have an illness.”
The group serves more than 500 families per month, and last year gave out roughly 101 tons of food.
“We spend around $10,000 a month on food,” Latta said. “We usually order 15,000 to 18,000 pounds a month.”
Every bit of food that is donated is food that does not have to be purchased.
Latta was overjoyed with the ARC donation.
“It is tremendous,” she said. “That is a huge amount of food.”
Elizabeth Siskavich, an employee at ARC, explained that the effort is a way for individuals served by ARC to give back to the community and become more integrated.
They brought boxes to collect food to various businesses, some of which they already volunteer at. They later collected all the food.
“We want them to be seen as respected community members and to build relationships,” Siskavich said.
April Veach felt part of the community. She enjoyed the endeavor.
“I like helping people,” Veach said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Emerson Bernard liked helping as well. He grinned the entire time he unloaded food from the truck.
“It’s helping somebody who really needs help,” Bernard said. “My mother did it at the Salvation Army when she washed pots and pans.”