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09 May 2017

This is National Volunteer Week, we salute all the thousands of volunteers across upstate New York who are the “army behind the Army.”

In the early morning hours, two active seniors from Oneonta are busy helping their hungry neighbors.  Four days a week, Sam Koury and Ernie Sanders fill their vehicles with day old bread, pastries, cookies, meats or groceries close to their outdate from Price Chopper, Hannaford and BJ’s.

Returning to The Salvation Army on River Street, the groceries are sorted, meats frozen, fresh produce laid out on tables for those waiting to line for the Army’s food pantry.  “Our food pick up’s are a win-win situation, we help those who are hungry and the stores receive credit for in-kind donations.  The food isn’t wasted, even the hard bagels that I take home to fee the birds,” said Ernie, also known as “Col. Sanders.”

“When we go to the stores, we never know what food items we will receive.  At BJ’s, Ernie has a special pallet, labeled “Ernie’s Pallet” where the store employees leave cases or bags of groceries for us to pick up,” said Sam.

    Ernie "Colonel" Sanders            Sam Koury

Their four days of picking up food in the snow or rain, enables over 20 families and individuals a day to receive fresh produce, eggs, or granola bars, cereal, and other needed groceries from The Salvation Army.

While Ernie hasn’t missed a day in in four years, Sam has been volunteering at the Army’s Worship and Community Center for over 30 years, and 28 of which he has been chair of their Advisory Board.  Both Ernie and his wife are on the advisory board also and active with the Busy Bees senior group.

Both enjoy volunteering and are proud that a lot of people benefit from their volunteer efforts.

Sam is also an active Rotarian and at the Christmas holiday kettle season, they have a friendly competition between Rotarians and Kiwanis to raise the most dollars.

Both Ernie, Sam and over 70 other volunteers will be honored tonight when The Salvation Army of Oneonta hosts is annual Volunteer Recognition.