Connecticut foundation donates $25,000 for Thanksgiving food distribution in Zachary
Zachary Food Pantry volunteer Terri Richmond unwrapped, stacked and packed thousands of boxes of instant mashed potatoes, cans of green beans and other staples a family would need for a Thanksgiving meal.
She was just one of more than 25 volunteers, many from as far away as Connecticut, who lined up Nov. 16 to distribute food to 1,000 people at BREC’s Rollins Road Park in Zachary.
The distribution was part of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank’s mobile food pantry Thanksgiving meal distribution project, which was funded through a $25,000 donation by the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation, based in Connecticut.
Zachary resident Lucille Ringo, who waited patiently in her car for her turn to pick up food, said the donated staples would mean Thanksgiving dinner for six members of her family.
Ringo, who was impacted by the August floods, said she felt blessed that the food was available just in time for Thanksgiving.
Alexandra “Alex” Cohen, president of the foundation, worked alongside volunteers with the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, Zachary Food Pantry, ExxonMobil and the foundation.
Jeanne Melino, executive director with the foundation, handed out turkeys and directed cars lined up for the food.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” Melino said to each resident driving through the line.
She said the foundation believes in “giving out more than just a check.”
She said the foundation is committed to leading by example to show the world what giving can do.
Chris Brown, vice president of communications with the foundation, said the donation and trip to Zachary is part of the foundation’s Giving Tour, an effort by the foundation to tour each state to raise awareness of the good deeds of nonprofits.
Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank President and CEO Mike Manning said the foundation’s $25,000 donation would allow his agency to give away a food box and a turkey to 1,000 families in need. Each box contained canned and boxed food.
Roma Prejean, assistant director of the Zachary Food Pantry, said the food pantry usually provides its clients with turkeys before Thanksgiving. The foundation’s donation, she said, meant more people would get assistance, something greatly needed by many families still displaced by the August flood.
“This kind donation saved us thousands of dollars,” Prejean said, saying the money will be used to provide more food to area residents.
Steve and Alex Cohen launched the foundation in 2001 and in the past dozen years have provided hundreds of millions of dollars in gifts to organizations that provide better health and education for children, lift up veterans and support the arts, according to the foundation’s website. The giving reflects the Cohens’ personal connection with the causes they support. The Cohens’ son, Steve, served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Steve and Alex’s fathers served in World War II and the Korean War, respectively.
Alex Cohen, who is responsible for day-to-day management of the organization, began her life of giving at an early age, including working in nursing homes and soup kitchens as early as high school. Under her leadership, the foundation team is responsible for the ongoing giving strategy, relationship management of grantees and oversight of the numerous programs and projects the foundation has committed to support.
Several members of the foundation team were in Zachary for the distribution.