There is nothing too big or small that you can do to take action in your community. Members of Millions of Butterflies, a newly formed, youth-led, non-profit organization in New Paltz are stopping at nothing to make a big impact in our town.
Millions of Butterflies is committed to creating direct change by directly impacting the lives of individuals. In the past, they’ve achieved this by putting together back to school care packages and hosting bake sales to raise money for individual causes, other nonprofits or local organizations that give back to the community.
The creation of Millions of Butterflies, however, was actually a bit unexpected. Before the organization officially began, the current president of Millions of Butterflies, Mariabella Rivera-Todaro, wanted to hand out brownies when they went to Black Lives Matter protests in Brooklyn last summer. But after making and packaging them, they forgot them at home. Still wanting to help, they went to where Food Not Bombs was distributing food and started selling the brownies and lemonade in order to donate all the proceeds back to the movement.
The impromptu bake sale ended up being a success, so Rivera-Todaro and a few friends started to bake and sell more things. They started posting about it and more people started volunteering to help bake or donate ingredients.
“It really lit a fire in me,” said Rivera-Todaro, “I’ve never felt so passionate to work on something … but this felt super fulfilling.”
As it turned out, Rivera-Todaro’s mother had gotten the title to a non-profit back in 2017, but up until now she hadn’t been able to use it.
Now that they have a new title, Rivera-Todara says, “It won’t just be a loose conglomerate of people doing a good thing, it will be a solid organization that is dedicated towards a certain cause.”
The title helps the organization’s ability to receive grants, get insurance and to be seen as valid by the government. All things that are especially useful for one of Millions of Butterflies’ longest, on-going projects: The establishment of a free food fridge in New Paltz.
Rivera-Todaro and the other members of Millions of Butterflies are committed to ensuring food security and the accessibility of food for everyone. It’s estimated that in 2021, over 42 million Americans may experience food insecurity, according to a report by Feeding America. In Ulster County, the food insecurity rate is 11%.
“If there was one spot in this town where anyone from a business could drop extra meals and extra food and all they have to do is write down the ingredients and the [date], that would be amazing,” Rivera-Todaro said.
Rivera-Todaro hopes to make the fridge as inviting as possible. They would like to build a small, painted shed with a pitched roof. In the inside of the shed they’d like to have the fridge, which would also be painted, and countertops and cabinets for dry goods to be stored. The shed needs to be built by an electrical outlet outdoors.
The organization has already raised enough money to buy a garage-ready fridge. Rivera-Todaro has family members that are electricians and contractors. They are currently raising funds to buy lumber. They have already spoken to local farms and Family of New Paltz who will help keep the fridge fully stocked.
The only problem is securing the place to put it.
At first, the organization had plans to set it up at the Clinton Avenue Methodist Church, but those plans fell through. Next, they had plans to set it up at the red barn behind Snugs and had even installed the electricity they needed. But they only received permission to set the free food fridge there from the renter. They had assumed the renter had spoken to the property owner, but that was not the case and the organization has to move their spot again.
Now, Millions of Butterflies is looking to set it up at Hasbrouck Park at the green shed where the porta potty is now. Rivera-Todaro is already speaking to the village board about it and has plans to attend a village board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 8.
This is how you can help: If you are able to attend the meeting on Sept. 8, at 7:00 p.m. by Zoom or at the Firehouse Meeting Room, you can make your support for the Hasbrouck Park location known during the public comments section. You can also submit a comment to firstname.lastname@example.org or email the village board at email@example.com. Millions of Butterflies has also created a petition to sign which can be found in their Instagram bio, @millionsofbutterflies.
Other ways you can help with the free food fridge is by donating either directly to the organization or by buying baked goods at their next bake sale. Since Millions of Butterflies is a tax exempt organization, individuals can donate baked goods to the next bake sale and receive a tax deduction for the cost of ingredients. Individuals can volunteer to help out with the bake sale and receive volunteer hours.
When it is finally time to build the shed, Rivera-Todaro is looking for volunteers to help with construction. Once it’s built, they hope individuals can volunteer to check that the shed is unlocked and clean and that the fridge is on and fully stocked.
“It’s a community fridge, it’s going to take a community to run,” Rivera-Todaro says.
For more information and updates, follow Millions of Butterflies on Instagram @millionsofbutterflies and @newpaltzfreefoodfridge.