Senator James Skoufis recently presented Melanie Collins and Michele McKeon of Newburgh with the Senate’s Commendation Award. The Commendation Award is reserved for individuals who have gone above and beyond to help their communities. At the start of the pandemic, Collins and McKeon co-founded the “Newburgh Mutual Aid” community group in coordination with local nonprofits, LYNC and RECAP. Through Newburgh Mutual Aid, Collins and McKeon led the coordination of getting 400,000 pounds of produce and healthy food to families in need.
For the past many months, Senator Skoufis and his team have kept a running list of community members who went out of their way to help their neighbors during this challenging time. Melanie Collins and Michele McKeon are two individuals whose work in the City of Newburgh has made a difference for thousands of people.
When the pandemic hit and so many local residents were laid off from work, the already-existing food shortage in the City of Newburgh worsened. Melanie Collins and Michelle McKeon partnered to tackle this head-on; with the help of the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley and many volunteers, Collins and McKeon organized food deliveries to those in need throughout the city. The food preparation takes place at the First United Methodist Church where these two women direct and organize the deliveries. Together, they have found a way to help solve this persisting issue by bringing food directly to the people who need it.
“Melanie and Michele stepped up in a selfless and tireless way during the pandemic that no one will ever forget,” said Senator Skoufis. “Make no mistake – these two women are always behind the scenes helping on a number of initiatives in Newburgh, and the Newburgh Mutual Aid group is just one example of the work they constantly do to empower the lives of the people who live here. I’m honored to know and work with them both and look forward to continuing to support their ever-important work.”
“Food insecurity is not new to Newburgh,”said Melanie Collins, President of LYNC Community organization which spearheaded the effort and ran the distribution program from its headquarters at the old First United Methodist Church. “COVID-19 exacerbated the deep need that already existed in our community, but it also motivated us to take collective action to help our neighbors like never before. Thank you so much to all of our volunteers, to those who have donated goods and services to Newburgh Mutual Aid, especially the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, and to Senator Skoufis for his support.”
“For 55 years RECAP has served Orange County providing programs and services and offering a hand up to those in need,” said Charles Quinn, CEO of RECAP, the county’s anti-poverty program. “As we learned from the tornado in 2018, access to food was going to be a huge issue in the City of Newburgh. Food insecurity does not only occur during a pandemic but daily in our cities and rural communities. It is the part of the work RECAP will continue to do throughout the county and as a partner in Newburgh Mutual Aid. Thank you to Senator Skoufis for recognizing the efforts of LYNC and RECAP through Newburgh Mutual Aid. His support and recognition of our efforts is very much appreciated.”
Senator Skoufis and his staff assisted Newburgh Mutual Aid with a number of deliveries. Collins and McKeon plan to continue to expand their work as LYNC transforms the First United Methodist Church into a new community hub called High Point, which is set to open in early 2022.
Community members who are interested in learning more about how to help with Newburgh Mutual Aid can visit the Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/collectivelyhelping.