December 23, 2010
Food baskets brighten holidays
Catholic Charities gives 315 boxes full of food to those in need
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Jean Browngardt of DeRuyter joins other volunteers bagging donated food items Tuesday morning in the basement of St. Mary’s Church. Catholic Charities gave out its annual Christmas baskets Wednesday.
Volunteers handed out 315 boxes Wednesday at St. Mary’s Church that contained a traditional seasonal dinner for families and others in need of a holiday meal.
For those who lined up outside the door Wednesday, including Cortland resident Kim Wyant, getting the meals brightened their holiday spirits.
The donation meant good news for Wyant’s family of four.
“I’m glad it’s here because we’re low on money this year and we wouldn’t have had a dinner if it weren’t for them,” Wyant said while carrying the food to her car.
The basement of St. Mary’s Church has been a busy scene this week, as more than 30 volunteers for Cortland Catholic Charities worked to assemble the dinners and place them in boxes.
This year, they had some help assembling the dinners from sixth-graders at St. Mary’s School.
“I cannot believe the dedication of the volunteers and their desire to help us,” said Ann Marie Phelps, director of family and community services for Cortland Catholic Charities.
Local families applied through the charity group over the past month for the dinner boxes.
“There is really no one we’ve ever turned away and the reason we’ve been able to do that is because the community supports us in this effort,” Phelps said.
Working with the community food pantry has made the need to give help to local families who need it very clear, Phelps said. The local economy is not as good as it used to be and there are many families that struggle financially, especially this time of year, she said.
“We identified a need in the community that people were going without staples of the holidays,” Phelps said. “Our mission is to assist those in need — and a lot of times that translates to food.”
The family-size dinners volunteers put together this year all contain the traditional holiday meal ingredients: turkey, stuffing, cranberries, vegetables, potatoes, rolls and desserts. On another table, volunteers sorted through dozens of baked homemade cookies, all donated by local residents.
The class of sixth-grade students who pitched in Tuesday to bag dozens of potatoes for holiday dinners for the needy, said they knew right away it was for a good cause.
“We’re helping people who really need this and even if I wasn’t doing it for school, I probably would have done it anyway,” said Ariel Moheimani, 12. “It makes the families happy.”
She and other classmates quickly bagged dozens of potatoes into a dozen boxes. One student exclaimed, “It’s tater time,” before getting to work.
This was the third year students at the school have volunteered to help out at the Cortland Catholic Charities food collection for the holidays.
“We’re more fortunate than others, so we should share that fortune,” said Gary Reagan, 11.
The local charity and volunteers have put together holiday dinners for the needy for the past 20 years. It started out small, with a few people in the community helping out, but a surge in participation has made the operation grow over the years, Phelps said.
This year, Catholic Charities raised about $6,500 through fundraising and donations to buy the food. Produce was donated by local farmers and food suppliers. Byrne Dairy also donated milk for every dinner box.
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