December 18, 2008


Groups fill holiday needs

CharitiesBob Ellis/staff photographer
Volunteers Teresa Driscoll, left, and Linda George pack canned food into rows of boxes at the Salvation Army headquarters on Main Street in Cortland on Monday. More than 220 Christmas baskets will be given to local needy families. The Salvation Army is one of several groups helping families during the holidays. Some, including the Marine Corps League’s Toys for Tots drive, need more help to reach their goals.

Staff Reporter

Local charities are collecting toys, food and clothing for a growing number of families in need during this holiday season, and organizers in the groups say they are achieving different levels of success.
The Salvation Army Corps in Cortland is on pace to meet its goal for the red kettle fund raiser and has received just enough food and gifts for its holiday baskets. Catholic Charities of Cortand County is on pace to meet its goal in food baskets. Toys For Tots, sponsored by the Cortland County Marine Corps League, is struggling to meet its toy quota.
“We’re doing really well with the clothing and toy donations,” said Scott Dorchak, co-officer of the Salvation Army Corps in Cortland. “Earlier on it seemed like there wasn’t going to be enough.”
The Salvation Army Corps is giving 224 food and gift baskets for 224 families, said Debbie Holbrook, program assistant.
Last year, it received 175 basket requests and gave out slightly over 200 baskets after it had an overflow day to distribute extra supplies it had received.
“We’re not having an overflow day this year. We don’t have the supplies,” Holbrook said.
The baskets contain turkey, potatoes and stuffing, as well as toys and clothing for the families with children 12 years old and younger.
Monday morning, students from Learning Adventure Childcare Center in Cortland showed up unexpectedly with 200 holiday cards to be included in the baskets, Dorchak said.
The Salvation Army Corps is on pace to exceed its goal in the annual red kettle fundraiser. Today, it had received $32,000 in donations, Dorchak said. Its goal is $37,000. The fundraiser started Nov. 17 and will end Dec. 24.
Last year on Dec. 18, he said, the organization had collected just over $32,100. By Dec. 24, it had exceeded its $37,000 goal by collecting $42,667.
“We really weren’t expecting to be able to meet our goal this year due to the economy and everything,” Dorchak said. “We still need individuals to drop a few dollars and pocket change into our kettles to meet or goal.”
Toys For Tots is not on pace to meet its goal. Its toy drive started Nov. 15 and ended Monday.
“Donations are just down, and demand is up, with the ecomomy,” Norm Stitzel, local community organizer for Toys For Tots, said Monday morning.
As of Monday, the organization had 710 children registered, more than twice last year’s total, which was between 250 and 270.
Today is the last day the volunteers will be wrapping presents, and people can still donate toys today until then, Stitzel said.
He said the best things for people to give at this point are either toys or gift cards, which do not not have to be processed as cash donations, Stitzel said. The shortage is for teenagers from 15 to 18, he said, suggesting portable CD players, inexpensive MP3 music players and, for girls, bath sets with soaps and shampoos.
So, far the group has wrapped toys for just over 200 children. Each child normally receives three toys, but for the rest of the drive, the group will begin wrapping two toys per child to try to provide for each child, Stitzel said.
Last year Toys For Tots had an excess of toys, which it was able to share with other local organizations, he said.
Stitzel said very few people are donating toys, but several businesses and organizations have donated money to the organization.
At this point, it is too late to use monetary donations toward this year’s toy drive, he said, but the organization plans to use cash donations to buy toys in bulk for next year.
Catholic Charities of Cortland County is receiving more food and money donations this year to meet its higher demand, said Marie Walsh, executive director of Catholic Charities.
Catholic Charities is distributing food baskets containing turkey for large families and chickens for families of one or two people, along with potatoes, bread, butter, milk, cake and cookies.
About 400 people signed up for the baskets this year, said Walsh. Because many people request baskets after the application deadline, Walsh said she expects to give baskets to about 425 families this year.
Last year Catholic Charities gave baskets to 364 families, including those that signed up after the deadline, she said.
“I was very concerned that we wouldn’t see the same amount of contributions that we received last year, but we have,” Walsh said. “People have been very generous.”


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