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Volunteers help families celebrate the holidays

TRI-COUNTY AREA—Many families need a little help during the holidays in order to provide food and gifts during Christmas.  Luckily there are many people who volunteer their time with organizations to help others during this time of the year.
The largest program in Yates County to provide families with Christmas toys, food, and supplies is Christmas for the Needy.  Organizer Joyce Veil said it helps around 600 families.  New and used items are given to needy families.  The program has even expanded to include a third distribution location this year.
Veil explained close to 200 volunteers help make it happen.  She added there is a board of directors that meets six times throughout the year, every other month.  She said nearly all the money raised goes to purchasing items, with postage being the only cost.  She added, “no one gets paid.”
“The whole community is behind it, 100 percent,” said Veil.
This year, distribution will last two days (Wednesday, Dec.  12, and Thursday, Dec. 13).  The three distribution sites are: the Armory in Penn Yan for new clothes, toys, books, games, etc.; the Penn Yan Presbyterian Church for all used items; and the Penn Yan Baptist Church for all food.   There will also be a volunteer meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 5 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Penn Yan (211 Main St.).
Applications are still available at the Yates County Office for the Aging and at the Dundee Youth Center.  People unable to pick up an application can call the Office for the Aging at 315-536-5515.  Applications must be returned to  either of these locations by Dec. 1.  Applications are also available online at our new website
Several groups in Hammondsport will provide families within the village with food and supplies Tuesday, Dec. 11.  Food pantry volunteer Anne Green explained around 50 volunteers across several groups help gather and distribute items for Hammondsport families.  The organizations include the Hammondsport Women’s Club, Bostwick Club, food pantry, churches, and Hammondsport Community Services.  She added there is a lot of overlapping in who helps.
She said it starts with the Hammondsport Central School food services director sending letters to families about the program.  Green explained some groups collect clothes for children and teenagers.  The food pantry puts together baskets full of food.  Families then pick up at the items on Dec. 11.
On Christmas Eve in Schuyler County firefighters will help deliver gifts to needy families as part of the Seneca Santa program.  President Peggy Scott explained each year they help between 350 and 400 children, or 180 families, celebrate Christmas.
“It’s one of the longest standing, well respected traditions since the 1940s,” she said.
Scott said the work takes upwards of 100 volunteers, which does not include the firefighters donating the supplies, the Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards staff for hosting the annual fundraiser, and the students for unloading and wrapping the gifts.  She explained the gifts themselves are ordered in the spring by Tom Hesselson, who also buys gifts for the Arctic League in Elmira.
She said he gets the gifts at cost and “has always done a good job.”  Scott said the toys are being stored by Hesselson in Elmira now and will be brought up to Watkins Glen sometime this week.  She added she gets help from Watkins students to unload the supplies at the St. Mary’s of the Lake Church.  Other donations, like books and puzzles, are donated.  Scott said Girl Scouts will do the actual wrapping.
Planning starts in the first part of November.  Scott explained applications are sent out, with a Nov. 16 deadline.  She said most people who participate in Seneca Santa apply for it.  Scott added there is no deadline for donating additional supplies, which would be used either this year or next year.  She said they are accepting books, board games, puzzles, hats, and mittens.  Scott explained items like winter clothing can be given to children even after the Christmas deliveries.
Schuyler Outreach, through Catholic Charities, is also asking people to Adopt-a-Family and help provide gifts and food for three days.  Applications are filled out by families and screened by Schuyler Outreach staff.  To be matched with a family, call Schuyler Outreach at 607-535-2815 by Dec. 1.
The group is also looking for donations of items from people who might not be able to adopt a family.  Schuyler Outreach has guidelines for submissions, but needed items include turkeys with aluminum pan and foil, unwrapped gifts for children and/or adults, a filled Christmas stocking for teenagers, and monetary donations.  Distribution will take place Dec. 11 to 13.  To sign-up and help, call Jessie or Rosemary at 607-535-2815.





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