By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
---- — Artists Off Main at the Smithy, the Cooperstown Lions Club and the Cooperstown Angel Network are teaming up this holiday season to provide a family with a very special Christmas gift.
When Artists Off Main opened the doors of its holiday market at the Smithy Center for the Arts on Nov. 29, a live Christmas tree was one of the items on display. Unlike the other items in the shop, however, this tree, donated by the Cooperstown Lions Club, is not for sale. Instead, it will reside in the holiday market until the week before Christmas, where it will be delivered to an anonymous family in need selected by the Cooperstown Angel Network.
Artists off Main at the Smithy owner Karen Katz is asking customers to donate ornaments for the tree. They will also have the opportunity to give monetary donations to the Cooperstown Angel Network.
"It happened very naturally," said Katz, who said that after being contacted about the idea the Lions Club had agreed to donate the tree and the lights and the Angel Network had agreed to take the donation. "That's the sense of community that we have here."
She also said that the idea to donate a tree was the brainchild of Rich McCaffery, a member of the Lions Club and a personal friend.
"We (The Lions Club) always look to do a benefit for the community," said McCaffery, when asked about how the idea for the donation came to be.
The Angel Network is a community organization that provides assistance to needy Cooperstown children and their families. Counselors at the school give requests to the network, after they have either assessed a need or been asked for help by the families themselves. Donations are then given anonymously to the families in need, who must meet certain financial criteria. These donations range from food items and clothing, to assistance in paying for college applications and helping with heating bills.
"I thought it was very nice," said Alyssa McGoldrick, treasurer and holiday coordinator for the Angel Network, who said this was the first time a Christmas tree had been donated. "When it's a choice between heating your house or buying gas for the car (a) Christmas tree kind of falls by the way side."
McGoldrick said that this was the first year that the Angel Network would be donating a Christmas tree. She said the network had received requests for assistance from 37 families this year, which she said totaled to about 90 children. She also said that when the network started around eight years ago, 15 families had requested holiday assistance.
The network will be providing each child with a toy, as well as necessities, which can include food and clothing. Donations are being dropped off at St. Mary's Church in Cooperstown this Tuesday and picked up the following Thursday.
25 of these families are being sponsored by individuals and organizations in the community, while the remaining families are being provided for by funds from the network. McGoldrick said that one family that received assistance last year is actually sponsoring a family this year.
As for where the tree will be going, McGoldrick said that they hadn't chosen a family yet, and that a raffle will probably be held to determine which interested family in need receives it.
Artists Off Main at the Smithy’s holiday market is located on 55 Pioneer St. in Cooperstown, and is open Thursday through Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Its last day of operation will be on Dec. 22.
Those interested in donating to the Cooperstown Angel Network or signing up for its newsletter can email email@example.com.