Bethesda House Thanksgiving in Daily Gazette

Schenectady’s Rivers Casino's 'Season of Giving': 320 turkeys donated to Capital Region charities

By: Kayla DeMicco


SCHENECTADY - Sean Wyse and the Rivers Gives team aim to collaborate with local non-profit organizations, seeking opportunities for Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady to support them through various channels within the community.

“The holidays are always the hardest for so many folks,” said Wyse, who serves as the community relations manager at Rivers Casino. “We really want to give back to the community as much as possible. The fact that we can give out 320 turkeys is a remarkable charitable effort that we like to do every year.”

The Rivers Gives team has been orchestrating 320 turkey donations each year to local organizations and community groups in need since Rivers Casino and Resort opened in 2017. As part of the "Rivers Gives" initiative, the casino aims to support Thanksgiving meals and will also provide over 100 pre-cooked dinners for the Schenectady Police Department.

The donated turkeys, provided by through Sysco but sourced through Rivers Casino, are designated for various charitable organizations and community groups, including Bethesda House, Food Pantries for the Capital District, Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, Joseph's House & Shelter, Safe Inc. of Schenectady, Schenectady ARC, Schenectady Inner City Ministry (SICM), SUNY Schenectady, Unity House of Troy, and YWCA of Schenectady.

The turkeys delivered to these organizations are frozen, averaging 14 lbs per turkey. Wyse works with each organization to determine their precise turkey needs, considering the number of people they aim to feed and their available storage capacity. These factors influence the quantity of turkeys allocated to each entity.

Five employees will deliver the turkeys to the various organizations throughout Schenectady, Troy, and Albany. Schenectady ARC is set to receive the largest donation, totaling 75 turkeys, followed by SICM with 50. Joseph's House & Shelter and Unity House Troy are each slated to receive 35 turkeys, while the YWCA will receive 30. Additionally, Bethesda House and Food Pantries for the Capital District are both scheduled to receive 25 turkeys, SUNY Schenectady will get 15, and Safe House Inc will benefit from 10 turkeys in this charitable effort.

At Schenectady's Bethesda House, an interfaith ministry to the homeless, the team uses the turkeys for its annual holiday meal. In addition, they reach out to families or individuals they know have their own home but are struggling with food insecurity to see if they need one for the holiday, officials there said.

Depending on their food pantries and donations, they decide where the turkeys would be most beneficial for the community.

Jamie Swirsky, day program manager at Bethesda House, said, "Keeping our operations going is imperative, especially during the holiday season when so many families struggle to afford to feed everyone in their household … Hamilton Hill, where Bethesda House is located, is considered a food desert, meaning an urban area where it is difficult to find high-quality, fresh food.”

As Bethesda House serves the most vulnerable in Schenectady County, Swirsky added, all efforts and support within the community are to credit to make helping them possible.

The turkeys tie into their food services, which help those who are unable to afford healthy meals for their families. The food pantries help supply ingredients to those in need while their daily meals provide fresh, hot meals every day to those coming in for services.


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