About Foothills Rural Community Ministry

We are a coalition of organizations and area churches serving needy people in our rural area of Central New York.  Foothills leases space from the Presbyterian Church for its nonprofit organization. The Executive Council is the governing body of the organization.

Sonya Ellinger, Director

Denise Routhier, Thrift Shop Manager

Cynde Baird, Coffee House Liaison


John Angwin & Candy Owen, Christmas Basket Co-chairs


Bonnie Grogan & Carissa Ellinger, Backpack Project Co-Chairs


Lucinda Rowlands, Food $ense Program


Chris Dittl, Sarah's Pet Pantry




Executive Council Members

April Bliss, Moderator

Angela Atwell, Treasurer

Jeff Ellinger, Vice Moderator

Cynde Baird, Secretary

John Angwin

Linda Cady

Barb Daily

Kyle Dittl

Jim Fruscella

Dory Ingersoll

Margaret Keblish

Matt Kochan

Lucinda Rowlands

Bonnie Swisher

Meetings are on the 2nd Monday of each month and open to the public @ 7:00pm in the large meeting hall of the  Holland Patent First  Presbyterian Church. 




A BRIEF HISTORY OF Foothills Rural Community Ministry:  1985-2018


Foothills Rural Community Ministry began with a biblical vision, and a desire for churches to take action.  The biblical vision came from Old Testament prophets' and Liberation Theology's insistence that there was a Biblical mandate to care for the poor.  John Preston, pastor of the Holland Patent Presbyterian Church at the time and later the Executive Director of Foothills, had preached this from the pulpit and a response came from some parishioners who discovered some very poor families in our community who needed help.  In the beginning they simply took groceries to these families.   This led to inviting various “experts” in to discuss our rural situation with some church folks from several local congregations.  Probably the best expert was one of the mothers we had helped, who had the courage to come in and tell us her story of poverty.


In 1985 five local congregations organized what was called Foothills Churches United for Action.  They were the Presbyterian Churches of Holland Patent and South Trenton, the United Methodist Churches of Floyd and Stittville, and the Unitarian Church of Barneveld.  Other churches, including St. Leo’s Roman Catholic and St. David’s Episcopal would soon join us.


We considered several outreach projects including a latchkey program, but finally settled on an information and referral service, so that we could connect families in need and social services that were available.  We hired a part time coordinator.   Larger seed money grants were secured from several denominations, and the local congregations each agreed to contribute $300 a year.


The decade of the 1990’s was one in which programs and volunteers were added.  The first major addition was a Food Pantry.  We inherited the Christmas Basket program from Christians Anonymous at St. Leo’s when Debby Stark left the area.  The Thrift Shop, a long time venture of the women of St. Leo’s and the Presbyterian Church, was assimilated into our structure when Alma Steinbacher retired.


In 1992, after consultations with Carl Geores, who is famous for developing Mission at the Eastword in Maine, we changed to our present organizational name and were incorporated as a secular non-profit organization.  About this time we included the Park Coffee House, which had begun in 1984, under our organizational umbrella.  This allowed the Coffee House a larger volunteer base and provided the overall organization another source of ongoing income from ticket sales and from the food concession.


In 2004 a Sharing Neighbors initiative led to a collaboration with the Trenton Farmers’ Market.  We provide Pantry customers with coupons toward the purchase of fresh, local food and also provide the means for customers to use their food stamp benefits at the market.  About the same time Central New York Food Bank encouraged us to begin a Community Garden with their support. Other recent programs are the Food $ense program started in the fall of 2008 through the Food Bank of Central New York, and the Backpack Project, which donates backpacks and school supplies to the Holland Patent and Remsen schools and also the Summer Bag Program, it serves children 4-18  during July and August. This program was started in 2013 to provide extra food during the school break when kids are not in school to receive the reduced breakfast and lunches.


To this day our major outreach programs remain the same:  The Food Pantry, Thrift Shop, Christmas Baskets, and Park Coffee House.  During the intake process for the Food Pantry our volunteers have an opportunity to provide information and to make necessary referrals for our Food Pantry clients.


The support from this community has been tremendous.  We have many volunteers in each of our programs. We are supported by financial donations from individuals, churches, townships, and many other community organizations.  We have strong leadership from our Directors and the Council.  Together, we can take pride in what we accomplish.


-written by John Preston, 2009