Persons with no fixed address live in what some refer to as an “invisible world”. With your help, they may not be stuck there. Making their day-to-day lives a bit easier is helpful and important. There ARE things you can do.
This list of ten things to do may seem a little bizarre to you. But, a List of Shelters is very different from a List of Food Pantries or Soup Kitchens.
If you take this list seriously and use some of the suggestions, you’ll understand.
But, whether you try to do one item or all ten, I send you gratitude. The things you do will ripple kindness out beyond your circle. And, right now, kindness is needed desperately.
DEVELOP A LIST OF SHELTERS
Search out local shelters and create a list card. List each shelter by location and include phone numbers and a bit of information which may be helpful to those without addresses.
Distribute copies of this card to homeless people.
MAKE A LIST OF FOOD PANTRIES
A homeless-friendly food pantry distributes ready-to-eat items like peanut butter and crackers in individual packets, cereal and milk in individual containers. Some food pantries offer small containers of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Search out area food pantries that are homeless friendly. Make an info card listing hours and days each pantry is open. Include the phone number, address and directions to get there.
Distribute copies of this card.
INCLUDE A LIST OF SOUP KITCHENS
Search out area soup kitchens. Make an info card listing hours and days each soup kitchen is open. Include the phone number and address with directions to find it.
Carry copies of this card to distribute.
Organizations serving the homeless always need gently used items in good condition. They need items in all sizes from infant to XXL and beyond.
Blankets and sleeping bags are in demand year round.
People are always asking for socks.
Because the homeless carry their kitchens in their pockets, their food needs are specific: peanut butter and crackers in individual containers, individual packets of vegetables and fruits to be eaten raw (such as strawberries or carrots), cereal packed in individual containers, milk packed in individual containers.
When someone in your community conducts a food drive, donate a bag full of homeless-friendly foods.
If no one is having a food drive, fill a grocery bag with food and take it to your local food pantry, shelter, or soup kitchen.
Better yet, hold a food drive yourself.
In the past I’ve blogged posts about holding a food drive. Several dates of these posts include May 3, 2018, January 13, 2021 – February 11, 2021 – February 25, 2021. There are others.
Food drives are not difficult and they can be fun. Everyone should have the experience. Email me if you have questions. email@example.com
VOLUNTEER AT A SHELTER
Shelters depend on volunteers to sign people in, and cook and serve meals. Depending on the resources of the shelter, you may be able to do other things such as helping kids with homework, teaching ESL classes, writing resumes.
VOLUNTEER AT A SOUP KITCHEN
Soup kitchen volunteers pick up donations of food, help prepare and serve meals, cleaning up at the end of the shift.
VOLUNTEER AT A FOOD PANTRY
Volunteering at a food pantry is a community experience. I did it for years. Never, at any moment, did I feel I was wasting my time.
SHARE A MEAL
Whenever you leave your home, bring a bagged meal to share with a person on the street.
When you do a few of the things on this short list, you will find yourself involved in your community, even if that was not your intention.
Your interest in hunger and homelessness automatically makes you an advocate – even if you don’t think you are. When you help feed hungry and homeless people, you are fighting hunger in our country.
Most people in food pantries distribute a 3-day supply of food to everyone in each household.
But, however you see yourself, your good work, kindness, and generosity will ripple out beyond yourself and your community.
One thing is for sure, we need more good work, kindness, and generosity rippling out.
Something else happens when you share info cards, bagged lunches, food, and sleeping bags:
The homeless people you interact with begin to lose their invisibility. You replace that invisibility with respect when you treat them as individuals. Courtesy, kind words and a smile will change not only your life but theirs. .
You may even learn someone’s name!
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Learn more about hunger and homelessness on YOUTUBE at “Let’s Live with Thurman Greco”.
Hats, aprons, T-shirts, and books are available at www.thurmangreco.com
Having touble finding YOUTUBE interviews? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll get you there!
One last commercial here: A “HOPE on the ROAD” presentation was recorded and is on YOUTUBE. Tune in to YOUTUBE to benefit from this presentation.
I can present a segment of “HOPE on the ROAD” to your library, your organization, your class, your group.
If you are a Reiki practitioner, “HOPE on the ROAD” is easy to learn so you can present it to people in your area.
There is no charge for “HOPE on the ROAD”. To participate in “HOPE on the ROAD”, contact me at email@example.com.
Congratulations! You had a food drive!
Your work isn’t done yet. Now is a good time to think about your next food drive. It will be easier and more fun than the last one because you know more about your tasks!
When you organize for the next food drive, you’ll get to see how your last one worked.
Celebrate your goal. Did you have anyone helping you?
This is a good time to go out for a pizza or ice cream. Enjoy what you did and discuss how you helped your community as well as yourselves!
Pat yourself on your back.
A few weeks after your food drive, check in with the food pantry or other group who received all your collections.
Were the foods you collected useful?
Were you able to get enough of one item for the group to have a surplus?
What foods would have been appreciated which were not collected?
How can you improve your future food drives?
Now is a good time to plan your next food drive!
design a fact sheet that lists some foods that are needed. (The agency you
donated the food to may already have one you can use).
Write and send out a press release about your food drive and plans for the next one.
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Woodstock, New York
A food pantry is what it is because of three things:
the economic situation at the moment
the people who shop there.
The people come together looking for groceries but often, they want and need far more.
While the coronavirus pandemic rages, the food pantry lines get longer every pantry day because people, families, deal with change they didn’t ask for.
In short, they are rewriting their destiny stories without a road map or instructions.
A number of the people in the pantry, both shoppers and volunteers, didn’t know about food pantries until circumstances set up a situation where they suddenly looked around a room and realized where they were.
There is a name for their category – SITUATIONAL POOR.
A person fits into the situational poor category when s/he lands in a situation created by an event such as a hurricane, fire, floor, pandemic, or other disaster which destroys the home, car, job.
Pantries offer much – peace, community, spiritual connection, groceries. I always think of a food pantry in the basement of a church as a cross between a church service and a busy pizza place.
A food pantry, and those connected with it, are not a program. They are a community. As volunteers, all we really do is open the door. As all the hungry people walk through the door, they undergo a change somehow.
Each person in a pantry, in whatever capacity, has experienced rejection in some way – too young, too old, too crazy, too sick, too poor, not poor enough.
The food pantry experience does not heal a person, nor does it change the story.
The food pantry experience does not offer therapy.
The food pantry is, instead, a conduit for each person’s own healing.
FOOD PANTRY RULES
Sign your name in the register as you enter the pantry.
Find a place in line.
Do not crowd or block the door to the pantry room.
No more than 2 shoppers are allowed in the pantry at one time.
No more than one new shopper is allowed in the pantry at one time.
Shop for a three-day supply of food for everyone in your household.
Place your selections on the table as you shop.
Respect the restrictions on certain foods.
Finish your shopping in 10 minutes.
Once you begin to bag your groceries, do not continue to shop.
Because the food availability is different each time you shop, it is best to visit the food pantry weekly.
P.S. The rules may be different at the pantry where you shop. Each food pantry is different. The space is different. The times the pantry is open is different. The management is different.
These specific rules were used in the food pantry I managed where the people were many, the space small, and the hours few.
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I got excited!
A letter from the Capital City Rescue Mission sent me a thank you note! Just 2 weeks ago, they sent me an appeal letter, complete with return envelope.
And, today, I got a letter from Covenant House.
So what, you say.
Well, so that. That’s what!
When I managed the local food pantry here in Woodstock, I sent out appeal letters every year to a few thousand people. I never, ever, saw an appeal letter from another food pantry or soup kitchen or halfway house.
My letters weren’t nearly so nice as the ones I got from the Capital City Rescue Mission or Covenant House.
The pantry appeal letters were hand addressed, printed on a copy machine and hand folded.
Our return address on the envelopes appeared compliments of a volunteer hand-stamping each one individually. A volunteer got the return address stamp at the Catskill Art and Office for less than $25.
Our mailers went out each year reeking of poverty. No professional letterhead. No nice paper. They were just an appeal from a group of people who needed to keep going from day-to-day.
But, they worked. Those letters and the follow-up thank-you notes brought in enough money to meet our needs. We always had enough for gas and sandwiches for the staff on the monthly food pantry stocking day.
When Guy dented the fender in his car in our parking lot, we had the money for repairs.
When we showed up in the food pantry one day to distribute food, there were no working lights in the basement of the church.
I never quite figured out what happened. But this I do know: Richard Spool arrived in just a few minutes and dealt with the problem. We had enough $$$ to get all the parts we needed at Houst.
And, this I do know: The hungry people were fed, the lights were fixed, Richard saved the day, and the account still had a few dollars left.
But, now, back to the story.
Well, today I did. The appeal mailer came in about 2 weeks ago and I quickly sent a check and a copy of my book (for encouragement).
Today I got a thank-you with another self-addressed envelope from the Capital City Rescue Mission. (I think I’ll send another copy of my book for them to share. ) I’m going to send along another check. I’m anxious to see how this plays out.
Meanwhile, if you are a food pantry, soup kitchen, halfway house and need money, you can learn all my secrets starting on page 196 of my book, “I Don’t Hang Out in Churches Anymore”. I held nothing back. If you read this information, you’ll have the recipe for fundraising success.
In my heart, I want every pantry, soup kitchen, and halfway house to be rich enough to feed everyone who needs the food. I want the food to be top quality – the best.
And, I want every pantry to have enough $$$ to fix the cars and trucks and the lights in the building.
I learned these secrets at Rowe in Vermont when Kim Kline gave her annual talk.
If you feel you can’t take my word for all this success, get Kim Kline’s books and read them. Or, better yet, attend one of her weekends (when the pandemic is over).
Remember, in our country, there is no excuse for anyone to go hungry.
If you’re reading this post and you don’t work for a pantry or soup kitchen, you don’t have to wait for a mailer. All you have to do is contact a food pantry and make a donation.
You don’t have to send a check. If you want, you can hold a food drive and then haul over all the food you gathered. The important thing is that there are many ways to support those who feed the hungry.
And, lately, there are more and more hungry people than we ever thought possible. Your help and support will be appreciated.
Thank you for your generosity and thank you for reading this article.
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I got an email survey question yesterday.
“Did your landlord reduce your rent?”
Somehow, I can’t get this question out of my head. It just keeps grabbing my attention at every opportunity. What a question!
The answer is “NO!”
No landlord has lowered anyone’s rent in this area. Rents are going up, up, and up. In fact, rents are disappearing.
My landlord is evicting my neighbors. They live in one half of the duplex next door. The other side is air bnb…or maybe vrbo…or any one of several other vacation rental apps so popular on everyone’s computer and phone.
Until last year, both sides of the duplex were vacation rentals. Then, the town supervisor cracked down on them so the landlady made one side a monthly rental.
Immediately, a lovely young couple moved in. They are the perfect tenants. No noise, no clutter, no smells, no noisy children. Their footprint is the smallest they can manage.
Well, small footprint or no footprint, their days are numbered.
I see them packing up their possessions and driving them away – a few cartons every day. The boxes are going to a storage unit until they can find a new place to live. So far, they’ve had no luck.
They want to stay in Woodstock because this is their home town. Growing up, Gaby skated and bicycled on every street in this town.
Well, there are no places to rent in this town. Woodstock is a vacation rental town all the way.
This lovely young couple seeks shelter in other communities: Palenville, Catskill, Athens.
Meanwhile, the landlord eagerly advertises both units as vacation rentals. The young couple must go. His list of eager vacationer applicants is long. He’s sorry the young couple has no home.
But, life must continue.
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Woodstock, New York
Paul has been on my mind all week.
One of my oldest friends, I knew him and worked with him when I worked and lived in Virginia – just outside Washington D.C.
Back then, we had Kelly Girls. Paul was my very best Kelly Girl. I could send him anywhere – well, not to the male chauvinist lawyer who would only pay for a cute legal secretary. But all the others loved his work.
He showed up on time for his assignments and he turned out a perfect work product. He was a bargain. Whatever he did, he made the client feel that Paul gave more than the money’s worth for every job done.
Everyone knew Paul was homeless. Nobody cared. He was the best typist out there. (This was before computers, you understand.) A quality work product counts for a lot when it comes time to pay the bill, after all.
So why have I been thinking about Paul all week? It was the Duct Tape that did it. My watch band broke and I need the watch. I drove over to Genter’s Jewelry Store in Saugerties and discovered a “for rent” sign where the “open” sign used to be. Mr. Genter always fixed everything . He didn’t care whether it was a watch band, a clock, a necklace.
He also sold silver and gold chains at bargain prices. And, he custom designed a coin for me. His work was exacting. Genter’s was my go-to destination for all things jewelry.
Genter’s is a statistic of the Coronavirus. With Mr. Genter gone, what was I going to do? I physically grieved when I saw the sign in the window.
I went straight for the Duct Tape. I now wear a watch held together with Duct Tape. I’m getting used to it, actually. My sense of urgency diminishes a little more each day.
I’m sure I’ll get along just fine with the Duct Tape. Paul Did.
Duct Tape adorned most of Paul’s clothes and anything else he used. Duct Tape held Paul’s shoes together. Duct Tape held the watch on Paul’s arm. Duct tape even kept Paul’s eyeglasses going. Finally, Duct Tape held Paul’s winter coat together.
So, following in Paul’s example, Duct Tape will keep my fitness watch going.
I rather like my new Duct Tape look. And, I like remembering Paul. He always made me smile. And, smiles these days are hard to come by.
Thanks Paul! You set a good example. This Duct Tape will work until I can find Mr. Genter, just as Duct Tape held your shoes together until you could find a newer used pair of shoes.
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Woodstock, New York
PS: You can order one or more of the fancy T-shirts pictured in this post today at :
I also wrote about Paul in “No Fixed Address.”
SITUATIONAL POOR – A person fits into a situational category of poverty when s/he lands in a situation created by an event such as a hurricane, fire, flood, pandemic, or other disaster which destroys the home, job, car.
Food pantries, food banks, soup kitchens are overworked in today’s pandemic world. The line of hungry people grows every time the place opens.
It’s bad enough that the line grows weekly. But, worse, many people in the line are confused, afraid. The never thought they would find themselves in a food pantry line with hundreds of other hungry, confused, afraid.
How should they act? What should they do?
What do they do with the food, once they get it home? It may be good food – both delicious and nutritious. However, it may not be anything recognizable. More often than not, pantry food doesn’t come with recipes. Super markets carry thousands of items. Food pantries carry maybe 50 different items and the labels on the cans and boxes aren’t even recognizable. The fresh produce may be organic but not be labeled as such.
So, now that the pantry food is in its new found kitchen, there is a big adjustment period involved in getting it to the table.
We are not so far removed from those people in the food pantry. They are our neighbors, friends, co-workers, relatives, classmates.
And, truth be told, we are all confused, and afraid.
Even though you may not be in the line, there are definitely things you can do. For starters, send a check to a food pantry, soup kitchen, or food bank in your area. If you don’t know where to send the check, look up an organization called:
Feeding America is glue holding the food pantry world together. If that doesn’t work for you, search out: Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York.
The Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, along with the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, do an amazing job of making delicious, nutritious foods available to those who need it most.
These two food banks are only two in a large network of food banks located throughout the country. If you seeking a feeding facility in another part of the country, these organizations can guide you to one in the area best for you.
If you are uncomfortable sending money, this might be a good time to organize a food drive.
I wrote three action guides which list suggestions and options which are easy-to-understand and read. You can get these action guides free. Email me your mailing address and I’ll get your copies in the mail right away. I’m not even charging postage and handling.
Email me your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The guidelines and suggestions are practical. I feel confident you’ll discover practical things you can do to help on one of the action guides.
Thank you for caring.
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Woodstock, New York
“Woodstock is completely packed with Coronavirus refugees from Brooklyn. We’re doing more business here in the post office than we have every done. This post office is busier than any Christmas rush has ever been.”
What a day!
I got a call from someone earlier today. “The food pantry is closed, Thurman. How can this happen?” As I went by the Woodstock Library, I saw a sign: “Closed”
The Coronavirus affects us all. We cannot avoid the reality. People jokingly call our community Brooklyn North.
As long as you have a car and money and an apartment and a cell phone and a computer, all you have to worry about is the spread of germs. But, that’s not how it is with everyone. Without a car and money and an apartment and a computer and a call phone, your life tells a different story.
Without those luxuries, your lifeline requires a food pantry and a library.
The library is essential because it’s your ticket to information about food, housing, and anything else you need to find. A library will help you find everything you need to survive. And, while it’s giving you information, a library roof keeps you dry. The walls of the library keep you warm and comfortable while you seek all that you need.
And, of course, the library has one other luxury people don’t talk about much: a bathroom. If you are without food and a roof and a computer and a cell phone, a bathroom is essential.
So, while the Woodstock Reformed Church has closed its doors, most of the food pantries in New York state are figuring out how to get food to people. They are receiving support from the Food Bank.
In fact, the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley reports that volunteers are responding to every emergency request received. This includes food deliveries to seniors, quarantined and high-risk individuals, school back pack programs.
If you can get to a phone, there are a couple of phone numbers you can call. Try 845-399-0376 or 845-633-2120.
Sources tell me that many food pantries and soup kitchens are not closed. I truly hope you can find one.
So, what can we do? Well, for starters, try to contact people you know but seldom see and find out how they are doing. Do they need anything? Is there anything you can do?
Contact food pantries and soup kitchens in your area and see if they need anything. My bet is that they do. My bet is they need food.
Times are serious. Your help is needed!
If you run out of ideas, contact me at thurmangreco@gmail and I’ll send you, free of charge, my three action guides with practical tips for fighting hunger and homelessness.
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As seniors age, the courage we experience becomes more obvious as we feed hungry people. After all, what does a senior have to lose? Courage is a necessary part of the aging personality because our platform continually shrinks.
We’re often overlooked in the homeless arena. Those looking out forhomeless people focus on an older adolescent (especially if there’s an infant involved), and families. There’s just not much energy left over for hungry people seniors and cocker spaniels.
It never occurred to me that turning away hungry people in the pantry line was something I would do. Or could do. Or even consider doing. Turning away hungry people was not an option.
I came to the pantry as a crone or harridan depending on the circumstances and a person’s attitude toward me and my attitude toward hunger. I brought already formed opinions and beliefs, many of which were with me at birth.
Some argue that people are born as blank slates. I can’t agree. For one thing, I never experienced a blank slate when it came to hungry people. I didn’t have an “aha” moment when I met my first hungry person. I didn’t examine the value of feeding hungry people in a philosophy or government class. I never, at any time, analyzed the concept of feeding the hungry.
Because I lived my opinions about hunger, and because I got up close and personal with hungry people in Mexico and Venezuela, I was comfortable with the concept of feeding hungry people.
I never even considered not feeding hungry people I the food pantry. When I saw them, I remembered moments in Mexico and Venezuela and realized hunger is an intensely personal situation accompanying malnourishment. Hunger can lead to starvation.
Hungry people needing food are voiceless. Even though it’s harder on those with mental and emotional issues, it impacts everyone spiritually.
As they distribute pantry food, volunteers reduce costs in other areas of government: healthcare, housing, education.
A long-term poor diet contributes to illness which poor people can’t afford. Healthcare costs get shuffled over to taxpayers. When forced to choose between housing and food, the hungry often opt for housing. Later, if they can’t pay the housing costs and end up homeless. This results in further tax bills.
When school children are too hungry to learn, the damage is long term. They risk becoming uneducated adults unable to qualify for employment. Our problems flow to the next generation and the future.
“Hi, Dana. Come on in and shop. How’re you doing this week?”
“Fred’s still in the hospital. He’s been diagnosed with kidney disease and he’ll be on a special diet when he comes home.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I’m so glad you sent me to Dr. Longmore. He told me exactly who to go see, what paperwork to get, everything I needed to get care for him. I hope Fred’s coming home soon.”
“Dana, I’m so happy to hear this.”
“Thank God the pantry has all these fresh fruits and vegetables. By the way, do you have any laundry soap today?”
I met Dana the first morning I worked in the pantry and she shared her adventures with me every week from that pantry day on. Of all the people going through the line in the pantry, I probably learned more about her than anyone else.
I never learned where she lived, how many children she had, where she came from or anything like that. What I learned from her was a running commentary of present tense food insecurity. She shared her daily struggle as she traveled through life trying to keep a roof over her head, clothes on her back, and food in her refrigerator.
Walking through the line weekly, she shared her life with me. I learned how she found a coat for the winter when the old one wore out and she had no money.
“Dana, your coat is beautiful!” It’s going to keep you so warm!”
“Yes, it is, isn’t it? You should have seen it when I found it. It was filthy!” I couldn’t even tell what color it was. I took it home, put it in the tub and worked on it all afternoon ’til I cleaned it up. Now look at it. It’s a perfect fit!”
I learned how she struggled to keep her car going…and then finally gave it up.
“The bus is working out real well over here. I catch it about two blocks from my apartment in Saugerties and ride it over. I wait in the hall ’til it comes back to take me home. I only have to carry my groceries about five blocks in all! I’m so lucky I found this bus. I get to ride free because I’m a senior!”
Dana was the most confirmed optimist shopper in the line. And, when Dana was in the line, I was the most confirmed optimist pantry volunteer in the place.
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Have you, or has someone you know, applied for SNAP? SNAP is about all that’s left in the way of assistance for people as welfare shrinks and shrinks.
SNAP is important for you and your household because you’ll be able to get more food with your SNAP card and you won’t be hungry anymore. This can translate to better health.
Are there more days in your month than money? Are you a senior who has outlived your pension, savings, or ability to hold down a job. Statistics tell us that one senior in seven doesn’t get enough to eat. SNAP is one successful way to help your situation.
If you have trouble buying food, now is a good time to apply. If you’ve applied in the past and were denied, maybe you need to apply again. You may, after all, have answered a question incompletely or incorrectly and were denied this benefit because of it. Try again. You might do better this time around, especially if you or someone in your house is disabled or is a senior with medical expenses.
You may be reluctant to apply for SNAP because you don’t know if you are eligible. Or, maybe you applied in the past but were denied. Maybe even you don’t know how to apply and are overwhelmed by the application. You might even have never heard of SNAP and think of it as food stamps.
SNAP is a debit card which offers privacy and is easy to use in grocery stores. If you don’t want anyone to know you receive SNAP, they won’t. Once you are approved, your SNAP allotment will be renewed monthly.
One thing: If you work, you need to know how to meet the work requirements. Some information is needed for you to apply successfully for SNAP. This information comes in several categories.
Proof of income is necessary. You can use pay stubs, social security income information.
Are you a senior? You are eligible for SNAP. If you are a senior, please apply for SNAP benefits. You worked all your life, paid your taxes, contributed to the economy. It’s time to benefit from all of the contributions you made throughout your life.
Identification is needed. This might be a state ID, passport, birth certificate.
Bills help. Bring your medical, heating, water, auto, rent bills.
Your social security number and the numbers of everyone in your household are necessary.
Dependent care costs will help. These include day care costs, child support, being an attendant for a disabled adult.
Contact your local Department of Social Services office for application assistance. If this doesn’t work, contact your Office on Aging or Catholic Charities.
SNAP is important for you if you’re having trouble buying groceries. SNAP helps you pay for the food you need to live a healthy life. When you eat healthier food, you will prevent and control some chronic health issues. This will lower your medical bills.
SNAP is important for your community, too, because when you are able to get food with SNAP, you’ll have cash available to use to pay your rent or buy gas to get back and forth to work.
SNAP is also good for your community because the allotment on your SNAP card brings outside money to your community. The money you bring into your local economy helps farmers, grocers, and local businesses.
When you buy groceries with SNAP, you are not taking money away from someone else who might need it more. There are enough SNAP dollars for everyone.
You can still shop at a food pantry if you are eligible for SNAP.
Get SNAP today!
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