Local musician and composer Wally Jones will be hosting a concert with the help of 14 other local artists to benefit the Venture Churches Food Pantry at the First Reformed Church of Bethlehem on Sunday, Sept. 15.
continued Jones was asked to perform because the food pantry is suffering. Donna Lasher, a volunteer with the program, said each month more people are coming to the pantry to help supplement their income. In August, 259 people were served from the southern Bethlehem area, many of them children.
“Finances are hard for people in the current economic situation,” Lasher said. “Some who were the working poor are now unemployed and some who used to donate are now seeking the use of the pantry.”
Lasher said with winter coming, many people are looking at a “heat or eat” situation — especially seniors, who sometimes put off buying medications in order to buy food. Others who visit the pantry have said they will have to choose between buying school supplies for their children and or buying food.
According to Lasher, donations to the pantry have dropped, although more residents have been donating fresh produce from their gardens. The food pantry works with the Regional Food Bank in Albany to purchase food at a reduced cost, but that alone will not sustain the program.
The goal of the concert is to raise funds to be able to give gift cards to those in need to purchase some perishable items from grocery stores, but the group will welcome food donations of nonperishable items if they are brought to the concert.
Lasher said food pantry organizers only foresee the problem getting worse, as the unseasonably hot spring and summer will cause food prices to soar in the coming months.
“With the cost of fuel and gas, people can’t afford to pay for both,” she said. “People are struggling to put good quality food on the table. Prices of nothing are going down and it’s going to make difficult decisions for people.”
Jones said he was happy to use his gift to lend a hand to those in need.
“It’s a calling that I have and a pulling I have,” he said of his music. “We have a lot of hurting people out there spiritually and if my music can lift people up, only for a short time, it is worth it to me.”
The benefit will be held at the First Reformed Church of Bethlehem at 38 Church Road, Selkirk, on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 4 p.m. The performance is free to attend, but monetary donations to the food pantry are encouraged.