30 April

Shock And Awe: $12,000 In Grocery Gift Cards For Refugees

by Jon Katz

Sue Silverstein asked me how much the Price Chopper Gift Cards we sent her were worth, and I took a minute to think about it.

I am not great with numbers and I never counted the gift cards, I just rushed over to the Post Office to overnight them to Sue, who wore out a pair of walking shoes delivering them to homes and apartments on foot.

“I don’t know,” I said, “I was thinking maybe $2,000 or $3,000.”

“No,” she said, “you’re not even close. You and the Army Of Good have sent us $12,000 in Price Chopper gift cards, and I can’t begin to tell you what a difference that has made. No Bishop Maginn High School student or a family member has gone hungry for a single day in the worst health and economic crisis in generations. That is awesome, you should be proud.”

I am proud and a little stunned. $12,000. Wow, and I didn’t have a clue. Sue is a much better record keeper than I am.

Thank you all so much, they are talking about us all over Albany. We have protected our friends at Bishop Maginn High School – they are family to me, and some of you – and are protecting our friends at the Mansion assisted care facility.

I am committed to helping them get through this, and we are off to a remarkable start.

The Gift Card Program is like the Amazon Wish Lists, it transforms the way we interact with non-profit organizations. They are revolutionary. We get to spend what we want on what we chose, and that is revolutionary in the non-profit world.

I think we have done some pioneering work when it comes to supporting the needy and the vulnerable. I am so proud of the gift card program. This story will have a happy ending.

The Gift Cards are for groceries, they can’t be used for anything else, and each of us decides what to buy, how much to spend. Sue Silverstein makes sure they go to the needy.

I want to say that I hope this program continues, in the Bishop Maginn Family (other schools are jealous of us), we have identified 30 to 40 families that are in need of food support. It looks like they will need some help for a while, a few months at least.

Their already fragile lives were upended by the coronavirus, they found themselves completely vulnerable and without resources.

The food pantries are overwhelmed now, and a lot of the refugees are too proud to be told what to eat, or their cultures don’t always mesh with American ideas about food. The gift card programs protect their dignity and their own cultural preferences.

We have kept them all fed and spared them additional stress, fear, and shame. A lot of them have lost their jobs, and some have lost benefits as the state and local systems have been overwhelmed.

It is wonderful to know we are feeding these families, and that there are so many people out there with good hearts and compassion. If you wish to participate in the Gift Card program, you can go here and purchase gift cards in any amount.

They will need to be sent to me since gift cards can’t be sent to post office boxes and the school is closed. My address is Jon Katz, 2502 State Route 22, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. If you spend more than $300 on a single purchase, you might be asked to activate the card by e-mail (quite simple) a day or two later.

Twelve thousand dollars is a lot of money, and it has gone a long way. No one should put themselves in jeopardy, but I can’t think of a more vital way to help people who really need help right now. They are overwhelmed with gratitude and relief.

Yesterday, Sue sent me this message of thanks. I want to share it again here. You can see and purchase the gift cards here. Blessings, blessings, blessings.

Surely 6 months ago, no one expected the world would be as it is. These are difficult times for all of us. Many have been impacted by illness, economic hardship, isolation, and so much more.
Each story is different.
So many of our families live on the edge during normal times.
Hard-working, loving, generous people, they are now facing tremendous loss. They are the first to offer help to another and the last to ask for help.
I can’t thank the Army of Good enough for all that you have done. You have allowed us to make sure no child goes hungry, no family is unassisted.
Most important though, you have let our families know that no person in our Bishop Maginn Family will be forgotten! Bless you, all, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
With much gratitude,
Sue Silverstein and the BMHS Family”

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