November 28, 2011


A big need in the community

Charitable organizations say more people are asking for help

CharitableBob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland resident Russ Tillotson stacks toys Friday that have been collected for the Toys For Tots program. The toys, most of which have been donated by local businesses and organizations, will be distributed at a party scheduled for Dec. 17.

Staff Reporter

Registration for Catholic Charities’ annual Christmas dinner basket giveaway started last Monday and more than 100 people signed up in just two days.
“That’s unheard of for such a short period of time,” said Marie Walsh, executive director of Catholic Charities of Cortland County. “We have a feeling that there is going to be a huge request for help this year.”
As the holiday season approaches, Walsh and other officials at charitable organizations are seeing more and more people looking for help. Some of the organizations say they are worried about not receiving enough donations while others say they will get by.
Walsh estimated her organization could provide more than 300 Christmas baskets this year, up by about 50 from the typical amount. She said she’s worried about having enough food to fill the baskets this year.
Walsh said food prices are rising, people are struggling to pay utilities and rent and need help during the Christmas season.
“It’s not the same people coming over and over again,” Walsh said. “There’s a big need in the community.”
Walsh said several local charitable organizations are working to fill the void.
“This is definitely a community effort,” she said.
Capt. Dorthy Budd, of the Cortland County Salvation Army, said the organization has already “hit its limit” to provide 300 families with Christmas baskets with food and toys for children.
She said the organization is seeing more working families seeking help and grandparents who have taken on the responsibilities of raising their grandchildren.
“It’s a strain on them,” Budd said.
Budd said the Salvation Army was looking for donations for hams, turkeys, chickens and other items that could be used to fill Christmas baskets. Budd said the Christmas season can be stressful for families. The price of gifts, food and the daily cost of living all contribute to the burden.
She said the local charitable efforts can help people get through the season.
“I think it gives people hope,” Budd said.
Toys for Tots, a program that buys gifts for children, is also expecting more people seeking help this year, said Norm Stitzel, the local program coordinator.
Stitzel said the program has grown every year. He said donations are “down a little bit” this year but that the program expected to register between 1,350 and 1,400 children, which would be a up a few hundred from last year.
The program gives a small, medium and large gift for every child registered. Stitzel said the local coordinators and volunteers have been purchasing toys from a wholesale magazine to save money this year.
Another local organization, Loaves and Fishes, plans to give out between 75 and 80 baskets, said Kim Hill, executive director of the Cortland Loaves and Fishes.
The organization will also have a Christmas party where children will receive gifts from Santa Claus on Dec. 16 at Grace Episcopal Church on Court Street.
Hill said donations and registrations for gifts and food have been steady this year.
The organization will serve “anybody who needs it,” she said.


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