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Christmas program ready to serve more

PENN YAN—Their holiday mission is the same, but the Yates County Christmas for the Needy program has expanded significantly to serve more needy people at Christmastime.
Joyce Veil is the enthusiastic volunteer who is now leading the small army of volunteers that is needed to produce the December event.
This year the Dundee community has joined with Penn Yan for the program. Veil said, “I’m thrilled beyond words. I never saw any groups that worked so hard to make things work out.” She said there will be no change in what is given but some new volunteers will join the ranks during the days of preparation and on distribution day, Dec.17. Students from Dundee Central School will help this year as part of the school’s community service program. Many home schooled youngsters also assist and Veil is especially pleased to see the increasing involvement of young volunteers, commenting, “I’m thrilled with the kids coming I think every child should have the opportunity to see what is done.”  
Volunteers come from all over. Veil said, “Some just show up. They have done this for years and years. It’s a happy go lucky bunch.” Asked if she knew how many volunteers helped each year, Veil simply said, “A pile.”  New volunteers are always welcome.
Planning for the numbers of people needing help can be daunting. This year the program expects to have 485 families participate, including 810 children. The number of families has fluctuated over the years. The total numbers were down for three years but this year any increase in people needing help is a bit more difficult to pin down because of the addition of families from Dundee.
Veil said, “There is no change in what we are giving. Each child receives a boot, stocking stuffers and a board game for the family. Many items ranging from toiletries to a new outfit from the skin out are also included. Children under age five receive a stuffed animal or a doll.” She said more stuffed animals are needed this year as are insulated gloves for older boys and cereal for Milly. Milly is Milly Bloomquist who has championed programs for the poor for decades. Gently used clothing and toys are available as well.
Children over the age of 12 receive a gift card for Wal-Mart or Dollar General. Families receive groceries including meat and fresh fruit and vegetables. Veil said recipes were added with the fresh items when organizers realized some people didn’t know how to prepare them.
Preparations go on year round. Volunteers purchase clothing, underwear and socks, searching out sales and bargains. One volunteer snapped up a number of items at a store in Florida that was going out of business. Veil said, “We look for the sales.” Money for purchases come from donations. Veil emphasized very little comes out of those donations—just money for postage stamps and food for the volunteers on the distribution day.
Asked what has kept her strong interest in the program for the eight years she has been a volunteer, Veil said, “It is my Christmas present to me.”
Also, see related “Christmas for the Needy” story on this page (“Santa could use some helpers”).

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