The stores are draped in color, the golden tunes of Bing Crosby ring through the air and houses are aglow with decorations. The holiday season is once again here.
With the season comes an increased concern for those around us who may need a hand. Most all of the holidays we celebrate in the final two months of the season are based on the tradition of helping those less fortunate.
One place that sees an increased need during this time are food pantries and emergency food shelves. There is a combination of factors that lead to this need, as families start to face colder temperatures and the decision of whether or not to use their paychecks to provide warmth or nourishment. Not only are fuel prices higher than they used to be, but now food prices have also seen a rise with recent drought and market conditions.
We’re not talking about providing the extras here, but the basic food needed to maintain a proper diet from day to day. In a recent interview with the directors of the Willsboro and Essex food pantries, they said that they were making multiple trips up and down the Willsboro town hall stairs each day to get packages from the pantry to families in need. For them, a savior showed up in the form of two local businesses, as Champlain National Bank and NYCO combined to contribute $3,200 to the pantry. We commend these organizations for their service to the community.
We also commend those who contributed throughout the region during the recent Scouting For Food and U.S. Postal Service drives. Postal workers collected food to be sent to the New York City area, where the need is great after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Cub and Boy Scouts contributed to local food pantries, collecting on Saturday morning, Nov. 17, youth gave their precious Saturday morning time to help others. If you would like to help these pantries, contact your local town hall for hours and details.
Another way to help local food pantries is by stopping by and watching the annual CP Rail Holiday Train pull into town. The train will be coming through Friday Nov. 30, and making stops in Whitehall (2:30 p.m.), Ticonderoga (4 p.m.), Port Henry (5:45 p.m.), Plattsburgh (8:15 p.m.) and Rouses Point (10 p.m.). Visitors are asked to bring nonperishable food items to the train station, then stay to enjoy music, events and a beautifully decorated train.
There are also those who are helping to make sure that families can provide gifts to their children in tough economic times. Some may say that if you can’t afford gifts, then go without; or gifts are not what make the season. While gifts may not make the season, try to put yourself back in the shoes of a young child returning to school after the holiday break or seeing friends for the first time after Christmas morning. How would it feel to sit there and listen to all of your friends talking about their shiny new toy or show up dressed in new clothes while there was nothing under your tree? Not a pleasant thought.
The need continues to grow. In Elizabethtown, teachers at ELCS have found that their donations are no longer enough to fuel their Secret Santa Society, and so they are seeking the help of the community. They are accepting donations of toys, clothes and money through Dec. 14.
There are also those churches who are taking part in the Operation Christmas Child Program. Denton Publications and Families First of Essex County are partnering for the fifth annual Operation Boxed Smile Program. There is the Adopt-a-Family program at CVPH, Toys For Kids, the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program and many more.
Then, there are the familiar, “Red Kettles,” that accompany the annual American Red Cross donation drive. There are many who volunteer their time, standing in the cold, ringing a bell and giving a smile to everyone who passes by. We ask that you return the smile and some change any chance you get, whether one time or many.
Through these many chances to give, we can all find an appropriate way to help our neighbors and help provide everyone with a truly happy holidays.
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