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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Season of giving"
ALBANY, Nov. 19 -- It’s time to share our annual reminder on one of this region’s proudest and most successful traditions: the Venison Donation Coalition, which in the past has stated its mission this way: “With the downturn of the economy, budget cuts throughout the country, and increased layoffs, more and more Americans are feeling the crunch and being left hungry. Those going hungry are families, children and single parents and the donation of venison can help feed them.”
Over the years, the Coalition sure has helped put a good meal on many tables. Since 1999, in fact, the Coalition has coordinated the processing of an average of 38 tons of venison annually and 3.3 million servings of highly nutritious, low-fat, high-protein meat. In 2012, the goal is to break four million meals served to those in need! Amazing.
And timely. The most recent Census figures revealed that the state’s poverty rate is the highest it’s been since 1998. More than three million New Yorkers live below the official poverty level. That’s the highest total in 12 years. Timely, as well, because of the fast approaching holiday season, a time of giving, and more immediately, with the regular deer hunting season underway across our region and throughout the Southern Zone until December 9th.
[A brief side note: the beginning of deer season represents one of the most important economic cycles of the year. Deer hunting is a mainstay of the regional and statewide recreational economy, by some estimates accounting for $2 billion of economic activity and 28,000 jobs statewide. Steuben County, for example, remains one of the Northeast’s premiere deer hunting destinations. In early October, this year’s hugely successful Southern Tier Outdoor Show offered further testimony to the importance of outdoor activities to the regional economy.]
But back to the Venison Donation Coalition. It’s a foundation supported by sportsmen’s organizations, of course, but also by corporations, local farm bureaus, government agencies, civic and religious groups, and individual citizens. I’m glad for this chance to call attention to its meaningful work. In government, particularly in an era like the current one defined by limited resources to address seemingly infinite demands, we’re always searching for ways to encourage individual citizens to contribute to the overall quality of our communities.
It was 19 years ago when an area "Hunters for the Hungry" program was prepared to donate 400 pounds of venison for distribution to the needy and discovered that state law prevented them from doing so. As a result, “Hunters for the Hungry" programs operating throughout New York at that time were being told they couldn’t donate over 10,000 pounds of venison to food banks and other organizations providing meals to the unemployed, shut-ins, senior citizens and other needy citizens. It just didn't make any sense. So the Legislature quickly acted to establish a program to address the appropriate health concerns and allow the donations to be made.
The venison donation program that resulted is now a broad-based partnership that includes a range of area supporters. It’s facilitated the donation of venison to food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens and additional not-for-profit organizations and charities that feed the poor. The response of hunters has been overwhelming. Today the Venison Donation Coalition operates in most of the state’s 62 counties. Countless citizens have enjoyed nutritious meals as a result.
It is, very simply, an admirable effort. While it may not readily come to mind as a community development mainstay, it surely is, encouraging a spirit of commitment and giving. We will continue to develop infrastructure, promote tourism, improve schools, protect citizens, and do anything and everything possible to enhance our economic standing, but along with these fundamental responsibilities is a responsibility to the quality of life for everyone. That’s what’s important, appropriate and meaningful about the ongoing work of the Venison Donation Coalition.
And we all can help. As the Coalition notes on its website ("Feed 4 People for Just a Buck"), the donation of just $1 can help provide four meals. For every dollar donated, in fact, the Coalition puts 95 cents towards processing donated venison. For more information, visit the Venison Donation Coalition online at www.venisondonation.com, or call 866-862-DEER (3337).
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869