Presents for 1000 needy Columbia County kids!
Dec 25, 2010 11:09 am
Around 1,000 children in Columbia County have presents to open on Christmas morning, thanks to community donations to the Edith Casey Stocking Fund. "As years go, this one was a record for the Stocking Fund, which has existed for 90 years in Columbia County and collects donations — monetary and material — to benefit needy families and children during the holiday season," writes Francesca Olsen in the Register Star on Christmas morning. "Columbia County Department of Social Services Commissioner Paul Mossman said 2010 saw the highest sign-up rates for gift bags ever.
“These were record levels,” he said. “Thanks to the generosity of the community we were able to meet the numbers. We didn’t have to turn anyone away.”
Things got a little dicey, but publicity and generosity won out in the end.
“The community came through and I think it’s one of our more successful years,” said Mossman. “There was some concern there for awhile when we had high numbers of registrants.”
The county’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program, headed by Marcella Beigel, staffed the Edith Casey Store on Fairview Avenue, where families signed up to receive gifts and community members dropped off donations. Beigel said around 20 seniors helped out, packing bags, taking registrations and keeping what can sometimes be a logistical terror in order.
“It was a very nice flow of people that came in,” she said. “Not the ones who came in with 20 gifts, but the flow of people with two, three, four things, that added up and it was wonderful.”
Each of the 1,000 children received a modest spread: a book, a game, a “big toy”, and some stocking stuffers — “they got at least five or six items per child,” Beigel said.
There are plenty of heartwarming stories that came out of the Edith Casey Store this year — there was ABATE’s $1,500 donation, plus a trailer full of toys; a woman who came in with donations and saw a volunteer packing a book into a gift bag that she actually authored; an anonymous man who donated an entire Jeep-load of toys; and a woman who forgot her gift bags at the store who Beigel and her husband tracked down and personally delivered the gifts to.
“It made it fun for everybody and that’s the whole idea,” Beigel said of these stories. “No matter how well off or not well off you are, when people do nice things it makes the whole thing worthwhile. There are a lot of stories in the naked city about the whole thing.”
Columbia County Clerk Holly Tanner maintained a toy drop-off point at the Hudson DMV, and urged county residents to donate via a radio commercial.
“Last minute pleas for additional donations went over very well,” she said. “The generosity of the community is always amazing this time of year. The striking thing I found was just the need out there is pretty dramatic. You may hear on the news that the recession is over, but the reality is, it’s really not. We need to be mindful that there are people out there still struggling.”
In fact, the people of Columbia County are struggling — the state Department of Labor marks the county’s unemployment rate at 7.2 percent, around 25 percent of residents use some kind of social service program, applications for food stamps have risen almost exponentially, and food banks across the area are feeling serious pressure to meet increased demand.
“Looking back and considering that things might not be much different next year, we might have to start our planning process much earlier and really think about how we’re going to meet next year’s demand,” Mossman said.