By Anya Tikka
BETHEL “It all started about four years ago when my friend Steve White became the president for the Federation for the Homeless,” said Stacy Cohen, the organizer of The Great Sullivan County Food Raiser, now in its fourth year.
Taking an idea from White, Cohen mobilized her extensive network of musicians to perform to benefit the county’s food banks.
The food raisers have been organized with the help of Community Unity at Mr. Willy’s Restaurant in Monticello, and this was the first year Cohen had her own place to host it, The Dancing Cat Saloon and Distillery in Bethel, which she owns with husband Monte Sachs.
Mr. Willy’s Restaurant also hosted this year, and three other locations joined in for the first time: Bum & Kel’s in Loch Sheldrake, Dutch’s Tavern in Rock Hill and Woodsongs Coffeehouse at the Sullivan County Museum in Hurleyville.
Bethel Councilwoman Denise Frangipane, who was collecting money at the entrance with New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, said a steady trickle of people had been coming in. The suggested donation was $5 to feed one person, and anything in $5 increments from there up $25 would feed one family. Twenty-one food pantries were on the list to receive from the donations.
“Last year we raised about $14,000,” said Gunther, “And this year we’re hoping to raise at least $10,000.”
The steady stream of guests increased as the evening wore on, and musician after musician stepped up to perform free of charge to help the cause. Cohen started her “Stacy and Friends” musicians gathering as an informal place to meet and play, and it’s still going on in the Dancing Cat Saloon on Thursday nights.
“Every dime goes to feed the hungry,” said Cohen, adding there are no hidden administrative costs, one reason why she likes to donate locally.
Cohen mentioned that two very generous businesses and their employees helped with large donations to kick start the Food Raiser Crystal Run Healthcare and Jeff Bank.
Cohen said she’ll put up on Facebook a photo of every band that took part in the Food Raiser and write thank you notes. She said she tries to help them, and they in turn help her. It’s all for a good cause.
“I was up every night putting this together,” added Cohen.
One of the musicians from RaddyOs, Van Morrow of Livingston Manor, said, “We all live here in the area and know what’s happening around the county. We want to help.” He added hunger is a big problem in the county.
Among the many who came to listen to the music and contribute to the cause were Danielle Gaebel, Jennifer Bitetto and Lori Malone of Narrowsburg, who came to “support everyone for what they do.”