Meet Donna Testa, food collector extraordinaire. Donna has been collecting unused, donated food from multiple food sellers in Putnam and Dutchess counties and delivering it to homeless shelters, shelters for domestic abuse victims, and substance abuse treatment centers for nearly 20 years!
In 2000, Donna felt a call to do something with a specific purpose; something she knew would be needed and appreciated, but with little personal recognition. With that, she began visiting local food sellers to ask if they would be willing to donate leftover baked goods or other items to local shelters. In the beginning, the response she got was varied. Some merchants were on board right away, glad for an opportunity for the food to be used rather than thrown away. Others were a bit skeptical at first, that is until they realized Donna’s commitment.
After nine years of building relationships, Donna now collects from two different ShopRite Grocery Stores—one in Wappingers Falls and one in Fishkill—a total of six times per week; from Adams Fair Acre Farms in Wappingers Falls twice a week, and from Hopewell Hot Bagels in Hopewell Junction six times a week.
Of course Donna, a friendly and out-going person, doesn’t just show up and load her car. Over the years she has developed friendly relationships with the bakery workers, the managers, and many of the store clerks. Some of them text her to let her know she should stop by, and then they work to carefully pack away any unused items and baked goods for their ultimate destination. Sometimes Donna arrives with breakfast, or another treat to say thank you. Together they all know they are making a difference, and they happily do it behind the scenes with no thanks or recognition needed.
Next, Donna takes all the food back to the kitchen at Mt. Alvernia Retreat Center, where she works as a chef. She stores the food in her chef’s kitchen until she can divide it based on the needs of the organizations she visits. When she has a full load, she calls her side kick, her mom Rose, and says, “Let’s make a Run to deliver food today.”
The Brothers Christopher who work in the kitchen at St. Christopher’s Inn get to know Donna and Rose during their time here, and look forward to their deliveries,
but not just for the fresh bagels and desserts! Donna takes time to interact with the men, to encourage them in their journey of recovery, and to remember to give back when they are in a position to do it.
Following is a list of people who help Donna make this mission happen. If you visit one of these retailers in the coming weeks, I hope you will take the time to thank them for all they are doing to help people in need.
Receiving and Inventory Administrator-Rob Wright
Shoprite Supermarkets, Inc.
Shoprite in Wappingers Falls:
Store Manager-Chris McCarthy
Bakery Manager-Colleen Kastanis
Associates: Vinny Doelling
Shoprite in Fishkill:
Store Manager-Jack F.
Hopewell Hot Bagels:
Adams Fair Acre Farms in Wappingers Falls:
Owner-Don Adams; Pat Adams, Steve Adams
Bakery Manager-Diane Cranley
Assistant Manager-Nicki Hannigan
Associates: Rebecca B.