SARATOGA SPRINGS u Staff at the Franklin Community Center recently got a lesson in the power of social networking.
Last week, with the shelves of its Franklin Street food pantry bare, the organization posted a simple but dire message on its Facebook page, which has a following of more than 400 people.
"Food Pantry SOS - We have NOTHING on our shelves to give!" the message read.
"We're usually not so blatant in our requests, but there was literally nothing on our shelves," said Courtney Bissell, the community center's coordinator for development and volunteers. "We had nothing to give."
The candor worked. Almost immediately, the phone began to ring and donations started to arrive.
Among those who responded to the call were students at Skidmore College.
Libby Gronquist, the senior class president, said the message was seen by a professor, shared with a student and quickly made its way around campus.
"It kind of spread through the school like wildfire," she said on Friday.
With the help of others on the school's Interclass Council, Gronquist rapidly organized a food drive to help fill the community center's needs.
In less than a week, the effort yielded 14 boxes of food and $400 - money that was later used to purchase even more food on an outing to the grocery store on Monday.
Students often try to help in the community, but nothing like this had ever developed so quickly, Gronquist said.
"The emphasis here was that this really was an emergency and that we really had to act fast," said Gronquist, who is hoping students will continue to work with the center throughout the school year.
Bissell said Skidmore's donation was among several received by the charity since the Facebook posting.
Between 10 and 15 people a day have brought items to the food pantry since the call went out, she said.
"The community responded immediately," Bissell said.
Assistance is still needed.
The number of people coming to the community center for help has doubled within the last year. In September, more than 500 people visited the food pantry, many of them struggling to find steady work.
"We attribute a lot of the increase to the sluggish economy," Bissell said.
With the holidays fast approaching and the need unlikely to disappear, Bissell said it's possible she may turn to Facebook again in times of need.
"I think we were all really surprised at how quickly it went viral," she said. "It's definitely something we're working to grow and expand upon."