Director at Compassion Coalition, which helps feed the needy, says agencies elsewhere are looking to replicate its model
Interview by David Podos
Compassion Coalition located in Utica is an entrepreneurial-based nonprofit focusing on community based giving, meeting needs as they arise. It has a budget of $2 million and a staff of 40.
Q: Describe Compassion Coalition, how long have you been around and how did the organization get started?
A: Compassion Coalition was founded in 1999 and launched in 2000 out of the need for people to have food. My father, Pastor Michael Servello, realized this need. Compassion Coalition also founded Bargain Grocer, which funds our operation. The Bargain Grocer located in Utica sells healthy foods at reasonable prices.
Q: Where does the Bargain Grocer obtain its food?
A: We have local as well as regional farmers donating food to us and international companies who also donate, but that said, we also purchase food from the farmers. These are produce that might have a slight blemish on them but otherwise are in perfect condition. Because of Bargain Grocer, Compassion Coalition in 2020 was able to donate more than 20 million dollars worth of products, food and non-food items to people in need. We started off just by offering food at reasonable prices, but now we offer many different products like furniture, personal hygiene products, clothes etc. We also work with more than 80 schools locally and regionally to fill the gap of needed products.
Q: Who are the people that receive your services?
A: We work with 125 nonprofits locally and regionally, that’s throughout the Mohawk Valley and all the way out to Syracuse. Our products are going directly to the families homes of the clientele that these not-for-profits serve. We also work with local/regional schools.
Q: How did COVID-19 affect your organization?
A: If you recall, when the virus hit and things began to shut down, if you walked into a local grocer many of the aisles were empty or near empty; so we had to jump right into action. For instance, many food pantries were running low on food. Full tractor-trailer loads of food that were bought by us and headed to the Bargain Grocer to sell; we wound up giving it away to local food pantries through out the area.
Q: What does the future look like for the Compassion Coalition and the Bargain Grocer?
A: The future looks really great. Other regional communities are looking to replicate our model and would come under our corporate umbrella here in Utica. When the national companies who donate to our cause come and see our operation, they too want to replicate our model in their communities. So, we are very excited.
The Compassion Coalition is located at 509 Lafayette St. in Utica. Hours of operation are: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 315-266-0039. The Bargain Grocer is located at 1110 Lincoln Ave. in Utica, New York. Hours of operation are: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Call 315-624-3668.