CHOW, partners hoping to fill the Food-A-Bago

Local organizations are coming together to help families in need this holiday season.

The Food-A-Bago is parked at Weis on Upper Front Street in the town of Chenango.

Community members are encouraged to collect non-perishable foods to fill up the RV with food.

The donations will help feed families in Broome County, through the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, or CHOW.

“Last year this event helped us provide over six-thousand meals, and this year our shelves are really bare. I’ve been here four years, and I have not seen so little food in our warehouse. So we’re really hoping that people come out, they’ll donate, our goal is to raise ten thousand pounds of food this year,” said CHOW Director Michael Leahey.

The Food-A-Bago will be parked outside the grocery store through Monday, November 7.

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Dining For Dollars supports program to help older people maintain independence

BINGHAMTON (WBNG) A dinner and a show entertained the crowd at Dining for Dollars to benefit the elderly across Broome County.

Local clergy serenaded and served dinner at the event held at the Polish Community Center in Binghamton Thursday.

All proceeds benefit Faith in Action Volunteers which is a program run by the Broome County Council of Churches.

Faith In Action Volunteers assist adults 60 years of age and over to maintain quality of life and independence.

“For some of them it’s life or death. I mean if they have to be for dialysis twice a week and they have no way to get there, their family either is out of town or their family works, it can be very vital to their survival,” said Program Director Sue Spencer.

The program provides more than 10,000 hours of service to older adults in Broome County each year.

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Support Broome County Council of Churches when you shop for Halloween!

Shop for treats, costumes, and decorations at and Amazon will donate to Broome County Council Of Churches Inc.

#StartWithaSmile at to stock up for Halloween and Amazon donates to Broome County Council Of Churches Inc.




Temple Israel Open House


North Side ‘Mobile market’ extended to end of 2016

The North Side Fresh Mobile Market program will extend past its 14-week pilot stage to the end of 2016, Mayor Richard David announced Monday.

Under the program, which began in June, the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW), spends part of every Monday, Wednesday and Friday selling fresh produce on the North Side, an area of the city that hasn’t had a full-service grocery since Grand Union left in 1996. The city has spent $4,950 over the past three and a half months to allow CHOW to sell produce at discounted prices, and will spend another $4,950 until the end of the year. The city is currently exploring extending the program into 2017.

“The City is committed to expand access to healthy foods to North Side residents,” David said Monday in a news release. “We must break down transportation barriers to fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables. While this program started small, we have seen it grow successfully in a short period of time.”

Since June, more than 2,500 North Side residents have benefited from the program, which operates under what CHOW Director Mike Leahey called an “ice cream truck model.”

From 1-3 p.m., the mobile market is staked out in Binghamton Plaza parking lot, and then moves to the Lee Barta Community Center from 3:15-4:15 p.m.. It then delivers directly to disabled and elderly residents at their homes.

The announcement of the extension comes amid frustration from the North Side community about the city’s progress on bringing a full-service grocery to the area. When Big Lots, which took over the space in Binghamton Plaza from Grand Union, left, the city announced it was planning to bring Grocery City Market into the location.

But those plans changed when engineers said in May 2015 that the space was “in imminent danger of collapse” and “should be condemned to keep the general public safe.”

The county has since sold the property to the Binghamton Local Development Corp., and the building has not been demolished.

“This is a really important step to address the food desert issue on the North Side,” said Conrad Taylor, D-4th District, whose district includes the North Side. But, he added, “it is by no means a substitute for a grocery store of any sort. We can’t stop working on redeveloping the Big Lots plaza or the Binghamton Plaza.”

Though the program primarily focuses on providing produce, it has also begun to occasionally bring milk and eggs to residents, said CHOW Director Mike Leahy. The program also gave out USDA lunches to children this summer.

Residents interested in home delivery from CHOW can call 607-724-9130.

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One path to recovery for addicts: Helping others

Larese Isaacson spends her Saturdays building ramps as a way to help others — and to help herself recover from drug and alcohol abuse.

“It gave me purpose,” she said of her volunteer work. “For me, it made me feel like I was a person again. I was back in the community.”

Isaacson is a client of Fairview Recovery Services in Binghamton who volunteers for the Ramp It Up program, which builds ramps for people who use wheelchairs and may not be able to leave their houses. She also volunteers for Faith in Action, which provides visits, transportation, grocery shopping and other services for older people. Both programs are run through the Broome County Council of Churches.

Volunteering is part of the treatment for Fairview clients, said Kelli Morris, vocational program coordinator for Fairview Recovery Services. They can choose between 20 different volunteer sites including the council of churches, the YWCA and Trinity Memorial Church in Binghamton. Many clients eventually get paid jobs through the agency they volunteered at. Or they can get references and experience to help them get a job elsewhere, Morris said.

“It’s important for them to gain additional skills and experiences,” she said. “It’s great for them to be able to give back to the community and help out agencies that may have helped them get on their feet.”

That’s why Isaacson was eager to join the Ramp It Up program.

“I love working with my hands,” she said. “It was a perfect fit.”

But getting to this point wasn’t easy, she said. She started drinking at the age of 10.

“My home life wasn’t great,” she said. “I just wanted to escape and not feel anything.”

As she grew older, she eventually began using drugs as well, including cocaine and heroin. Still, she was able to graduate from high school and work as a manager at Target for 10 years.

But while she functioned well for years, her addiction kept getting worse. Her wake-up call came in May 2015 when she overdosed on heroin and was twice revived through Narcan.

“That’s when I knew I had to stop because I was going to die,” she said. ”I had to change my life.”

Isaacson tried to get sober but relapsed. Then she turned to Fairview for help, starting last November.

Today, she is looking for a job in a nursing home. She hopes to eventually return to school, earn a degree in social work and do recreational work with the elderly.

“That’s what I love to do,” she said. “I love helping people and making people smile.”

Isaacson said she is grateful for all the help she receives from Fairview, and to the Council of Churches for allowing her to volunteer with them.

“There’s such a stigma with addiction. Some people have a hard time looking past it,” she said. “But we do recover. We can help in society. We can be normal people again.”

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Ministry brings worship services to senior citizens

Volunteers from the Broome County Council of Churches are bringing the word to older people who are no longer able to get out and hear it on their own.

Approximately 22 volunteers conduct worship services at eight facilities throughout the area, mostly nursing homes, as part of the council’s senior living ministry. About half are ordained clergy, while the other half are lay ministers — people who are not ordained but perform the same function, said Sue Spencer, director of the Faith in Action program for the council, who oversees the senior living ministry.

They conduct brief worship services that include the singing of hymns, preaching a sermon and reading the Bible for those who live in nursing homes and other facilities, Spencer said.

“Since mobility is often an issue for many of these residents, this enables them to continue to practice something that was probably a constant in their lives — something very dear to their hearts,” Spencer said. “It keeps them spiritually as well as socially connected.”

Many of the residents used to be active members of their congregations but can no longer leave the facility they live in to attend church, said Rev. Joseph Sellepack, executive director of the Broome County Council of Churches.

“Senior ministry gives us the opportunity to remember them and to remind seniors living in these homes that they are loved by God,” he said. “When we reach out to those who are shut in or in a nursing home, we help the body of Christ to be more whole.”

In place for at least 40 years, the senior living ministry is one of the oldest programs run by the council, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, Sellepack said.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, 15 residents of Good Shepherd Fairview Home on Binghamton’s East Side gathered for a service led by Rev. Carol Leach, of Port Crane. They sang hymns including “In the Garden,” “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds” and “Were You There.”

An 11-year volunteer minister, Leach read aloud some passages from the Bible and then preached about turning to God in times of trouble. A widow, she recalled taking a walk through Chenango Valley State Park on a dreary day shortly after her husband died. She was feeling down but then recalled a Bible passage about how people can rise above their difficulties by “hoping in the Lord.”

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength,” she said. “Do you hope in the Lord?”

A member of Calvary Love’s Assembly of God Church in Johnson City, Leach got involved in the ministry because of her lifelong affection for senior citizens. She is a senior citizen who will turn 77 in November but has no plans to give up her volunteer work for the senior ministry.

“It just lifts me up,” she said. “As long as the Lord gives me the capabilities and strength to do it, I would like to continue.”

For more information

Contact the Broome County Council of Churches at (607) 724-9130 or on the Web at

The council is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The council provides several programs to help people who are hungry, homeless, elderly, young, disabled and imprisoned.

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Hundreds step out to defeat hunger

Hundreds of people came to Binghamton University Sunday to participate in the annual CHOW Hunger Walk.

“Annually this event provides about 100,000 meals in our community,” CHOW Director Michael Leahey said. “This is where the community comes together to support those with food insecurity in our area.”

This year WBNG-TV took park in being a sponsor of the CHOW Walk.

Chief Meteorologist Howard Manges and evening anchor Candace Chapman led the walk for participants around the campus.

“The main goal is to help eliminate hunger in our area,” explained Executive Director of Broome County Council of Churches Joseph Sellepack. “We’re right now about 1.2 million pounds raised for the year. Our goal this year is to get over 1.7 million.”

But Sellepack isn’t the only one defeating hunger in Broome County. Even students are trying to make a difference when it comes to helping those who go without meals.

“I work with a special learning community called ‘Feeding the Hungry World,’ we work on projects in the Binghamton area that deal with food access, sustainability and poverty,” said Binghamton University senior Jordan Musante.

Event organizers said this event would not have been possible without the sponsors, volunteers and the community.

For every dollar donated to the CHOW Hunger Walk, CHOW can purchase $7 worth of food or provide four additional meals to people in need.

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Mega-Food Packing for Refugees

Upcoming Mega-Food Packing for Refugees will take place at St. Michael’s Recreation center on Sunday, Sept 25 from 1-4 pm.

In April, we had more than 400 volunteers from faith communities and friends all over the area who came to make a difference in the lives of refugees.  To the say the least, the day was a blessing.

Volunteers who would like to help pack the grains can register for one of the 45 minute time slots available by logging onto:

Folks who might like to contribute to help cover the cost of our anticipated 30,000 meals can do so by logging onto:

Checks can be made out to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation with “COA Meal Packing Event” in the memo line. (Mail to: Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 183 Riverside Drive, Binghamton, NY 13905.)

Back on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, the local Encounters tv program of the Broome County Council of Churches focused on a Meal-Packing program for Syrian Refugees in Greece which will take place at St. Michael’s center on Sunday,Sept 25.

The half hour segment has now been put on line.. so the links are:


Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant All-Star Golf Tournament tees off

The 15th Annual Jim “Mudcat” Grant All-Star Golf Tournament kicked Thursday morning at Links at Hiawatha Landing in Apalachin.

Grant is a former Major League Baseball pitcher and current member of the Black Aces, a group of 15 black pitchers who won at least 20 games in a single season. Dozens of other All-Stars, including former MLB Player Al Downing are taking part in the tournament.

This year, the tournament raises money for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, the Broome County Urban League, the Boys and Girls Club of Binghamton, and Catholic Charities of Broome County.

“The charities are very appreciative for this event,” said CHOW Director, Michael Leahey. “Last year, all of the charities received $10,000 and they all went for local causes that helped our local community. For CHOW specifically, it provided about 40,000 meals for our community.”

Additional funds from this year’s event will also be used to aid homeless veterans in Broome County.

“In this country, we all want to give back,” Security Mutual CEO Bruce Boyea said on Wednesday. “We all want to help people and this is the greatest country in the world.”

The Maine-Endwell Little League Team was honored at the start of Thursday’s tournament. WBNG Sports Director Larry Burneal and Sports Reporter Tyler Feldman also took part in the opening ceremony.

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