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November 8, 2013

Chobani chips in with community center

Residents of the western Otsego County hamlet of South Edmeston said Thursday they are delighted that they are getting a new community center adjacent to the South Edmeston Community Church.

Chobani, the yogurt company whose manufacturing facility sits less than a mile from South Edmeston on the west bank of the Unadilla River, donated the funds that made the construction possible. The money was channeled from the Shepherd’s Gift Foundation, which gives 10 percent of Chobani’s annual post-tax profits to community development.

Several local contractors were lined up to complete the project, and it took about two months to finish construction once the first shovel went in the ground, said Pastor Jeff McLallen of South Edmeston Community Church.

“This is really a blessing for us,” said McLallen. “It’s really awesome that Chobani is doing this for us.”

He and several other local residents said the company’s generosity will help deflate some of the disappointment that some local residents said they felt towards the company after the hamlet experienced traffic problems and littering that they linked to Chobani’s employees.

The company, now the nation’s largest producer of Greek-style yogurt, expanded rapidly and now has about 1,200 workers at its plant in the town of Columbus.

“They have a lot of concern for this community, and this should do a lot to heal things,” McLallen said.

Michael Rifanburg, a local contractor who has been involved in the construction of the community center, said the one-story building has about 2,400 square feet of space and is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It has a full commercial kitchen, and outside is a new playground and basketball court, he said.

“The people from Chobani have been terrific to work with, and their generosity has been second to none,” Rifanburg said.

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