The amazing spirit of CapNY’s generosity shines bright in Street Soldiers.
What started in 2016 as a small grassroots effort by founders Renee and Mike Fahey has grown into a tri-city initiative that helps hundreds of people every week.
On Thursdays in Troy, Fridays in Albany and Sundays in Schenectady, those who are struggling know that they can turn to Street Soldiers for a hot meal and much, much more. Anyone visiting a Street Soldiers event will find tables of essentials such as food, clothing, toiletries, appliances, pet supplies. Other donations are always available. It’s all based on genuine kindness – no questions asked, and no paperwork. “We don’t have any red tape,” Renee said. “If you need something, we’re there.”
With an extensive network of volunteers, donors and partnerships, they serve approximately 400 community members each week. In Albany, where the program first started they serve 100, another 100 in Troy, and up to 200 in the most recently established Schenectady site.
The Street Soldiers Story
Renee has made a habit of helping those less fortunate than herself since childhood, through small acts like providing blankets or buying meals for people in need. She’s expanded that initiative to a much larger scale over the years.
Renee started Street Soldiers at a difficult time in her life. “It’s always kind of been in my heart, but when I lost my dad in 2016, I needed an outlet,” she shared. So, she and her husband Mike went out in Albany on a Friday night with a card table, some soup and sandwiches. “We met probably four or five guys that night,” she recalled. “After that, we went back the following Friday – same time, same location. Word of mouth just got out on the street. We kept going back, we saw the need. And we saw the appreciation that they had for us putting in our time to go out.”
Friends started getting involved after Renee posted on social media. Through their donations and volunteering Street Soldiers was born.
Four Years of Growth
Over the past four years, the Albany program has grown from a couple of volunteers and one small table to 25 six-foot tables, set up by dozens of volunteers each week. To further fulfill needs in a neighboring city, in 2018 extended its reach to Troy. This operation grew in a similar manner, through word of mouth and assistance from lots of volunteers.
Under the direction of local resident Maura Furey, a third site was established in Schenectady in 2019. This has quickly become the largest volume location for the organization.
With sites now operating in the region’s three largest cities, each week Street Soldiers is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of people throughout the CapNY community.
Recently, I checked out Street Soldiers firsthand, and I was extremely impressed. Every week they hold an outdoor event, no matter the weather conditions. “We’re outside in the elements with them,” Renee said. “Rain, shine, blizzard. We’ve been out in it all.”
On a particularly cold afternoon I visited the Schenectady site. Though the temperature was below freezing, spirits were still high. Volunteers made sure that each individual in line had gloves or mittens, and even hand warmers if necessary. The Street Soldiers at this site kept everything operating smoothly. At a time when Covid-19 is of great concern, I felt entirely confident that this event was safe. Proper protocols are in place the whole time, no exceptions. When talking with some of the volunteers, even with masks on, it’s easy to see they truly care.
More than one Street Soldiers representative told me they look forward to this event all week. I suspect this has to do with the sense of community that Street Soldiers has created over the years. “Street Soldiers is like being part of a family, an extended family” Maura said. “It’s created a lot of lifelong friends.”
As a community, Street Soldiers has safely and successfully brought people together, spreading some goodness throughout CapNY, despite the pandemic. “Being on the street, being involved with volunteers, and meeting the people firsthand that you’re helping is such an incredible experience,” Maura said, “to not just know you’re making a change but to be there for the change.”
As the Faheys’ reach continues to grow, its mission remains simple: to lend a helping hand. “Nobody has ever gotten through life without help,” Renee said,. So, basically we are just there to do what we can when we can.” The organization is constantly seeking more helping hands to keep expanding the effort.
Age is no limit to volunteering. “We think it’s really important that kids are involved,” Renee said. “It teaches them empathy. It shows them that you shouldn’t be judgmental, and everybody needs help at some point in life, as a stepping stone.”
Street Soldiers events are held in Albany on Fridays at 1 Academy Park, at 7 PM. Troy events are Thursdays at 6PM, 107 Fourth St. in Troy (Roarke Center). And in Schenectady events are on Sundays at 4 p.m., at 153 Nott Terrace (Zion Lutheran Church).
Connect with Street Soldiers
Each community location has its own Facebook page:
To learn more about volunteer opportunities or how to make donations, message the Facebook page of the community you would like to help. Not sure what to donate? Check out the Amazon Wishlist for each site!
Written by: Lauren Halligan
CapNY native Lauren Halligan is a lifelong Saratoga County resident. She studied journalism at The College of Saint Rose in Albany. She has worked as a full time reporter for The Saratogian and The Record newspapers for the past seven years. Her favorite part of living in the Capital Region is frequenting the local live music venues. Lauren also enjoys exploring the many parks and nature trails within the area, as well as traveling around the globe.