By Charlie M. Holmes
---- — The holiday season is all about giving. The act of helping out another person is as much fun (or maybe even more fun) than receiving a gift.
So put on some sensible shoes and get ready to “shop until you drop.” There are plenty of organizations in Cooperstown and Otsego County that could use a helping hand.
Toys for Tots – Toys can be dropped off at several locations in the area through Dec. 14. Those locations are: Cooperstown Family Chiropractic, the fourth annual Festival of Trees being held Dec. 1 and 2 at the Lake View Room in Glimmerglass State Park, Key Bank Cooperstown, Clark Sports Center, Community Bank (both Cooperstown locations), Brewery Ommegang, Bear Pond Winery, Hartwick College and Joseph J. Kenyon Insurance, Worcester.
For those people who do not have time to shop for toys, but would like to help the program, checks can be mailed to: Marine Corps League Detachment 227, 178 2nd St., Ilion, NY 13357.
Make sure to mark the check “Toys for Tots – special events.”
“We are looking for sponsors. We are looking for people to have toy drives,” the assistant coordinator for the Toys for Tots program, Dick Mayhew, said. “If they call me I’ll get them the information they need.”
Mayhew can be reached at 315-269-6479.
Anyone who needs toys for their children can go to toysfortots.org to fill out a request. On the day of distribution adults will be able to select the toys for their children.
“The parents come in, show their ID, and then they go through the area,” Mayhew explained. “They pick out one large toy, two small toys and a couple of stocking stuffers.”
The Salvation Army – Needs volunteers to ring bells near their red kettles and people to adopt an angel from their Angel Tree Program.
“If they could do, preferably, at least a four-hour shift they could ring the bells for us,” The Salvation Army’s Captain Hopping said. “That helps a lot. That helps with our Christmas program, but it also helps year round with everything that we do.”
To volunteer to ring bells for the red kettle program call 432 – 5960. In the Cooperstown area the red kettles are located at Price Chopper and Tops Market.
Individuals who are interested in adopting a family or a single angel as a part of The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program can also call 432-5960.
People who would like to make a donation by check can mail their check to: The Salvation Army, 25 River Street, Oneonta, NY 13820.
Those people who need assistant can apply at The Salvation Army in Oneonta. Applications are accepted Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. until noon and again from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.
“They need to bring identification for everyone in their household – driver’s license, birth certificate, insurance card, Medicaid card that type of thing – as well as proof of address,” Hopping said.
Bills or a rental agreement are acceptable forms of proof of address.
Opportunities For Otsego – Food donations can be dropped off at collection barrels around the area, including: Baseball Hall of Fame, Glimmerglass Opera, The Daily Star, Country Club Auto Group in Oneonta, NBT branches in Oneonta, ISD in Oneonta, Otsego Imports, Sidney Federal Credit Union, Oneonta High School basketball tournament (Thanksgiving weekend), Shift Holistic Fair (November 23-24) and Holiday Train of Lights (November 29, 1:15 pm, James Georgeson Ave railroad crossing).
Monetary donations can also be made at Opportunities for Otsego’s website (ofoinc.org)
Opportunities for Otsego will be accepting applications until Dec. 15 for those people seeking assistance through their Holiday Basket program. People who participate have the choice of receiving a pre-packaged box filled with traditional holiday foods and items that will cover a couple days of meals after the holidays or a gift card to shop for supplies at an area grocery stores.
Applications are available online or by calling 433-8000. Distribution of baskets and gift cards will take place Dec. 15.
“Our other programs that we have like our HEAP program, which helps assist with payment of home heating costs, it doesn’t apply directly to a holiday, but programs like HEAP and our WIC program provide assistance to families so they have more disposable income so they can really meet the needs during the holidays,” Planning and Research Director Megan Stanley said.
Stanley is encouraging people to check out their local food pantry if they need assistance putting food on their table.
“The kids, when they’re in school, get that free and reduced school lunch,” Stanley said. “When they are on break, the families have to pick up where they would usually get assistance through the schools with those programs. They’re grocery bills are a lot larger and food stamps don’t usually renew until the first of the month.”
Operation Christmas Child – Visit samaritanspurse.org/giving/buildabox/, select gifts from a list and donate money to cover the presents. Samaritan’s Purse will assemble a decorated shoebox, fill it with the gifts that were selected and allow the person who paid for the gifts to track the shoebox until it reaches a child in need overseas. That’s the virtual way to participate but Samaritan’s Purse also allows people to participate in a tangible way, too.
Mary Beekman has been coordinating the program at United Methodist Church every since she moved to Cooperstown in 2004. The congregation at UMC fills pre-decorated shoeboxes that Beekman orders from Samaritan’s Purse and then takes to her church. Members of the congregation pick up a box, fill it with gifts and return it to the church. In the middle of November, Beekman collects the boxes and takes them to Main Street Baptist Church in Oneonta. Every year the congregation at the United Methodist Church donates about 50 to 60 boxes to Operation Christmas Child.
Cooperstown’s Angel Network – Sponsor a Cooperstown family or make a donation by emailing email@example.com or send a check to PO Box 1186, Cooperstown, NY 13326. Checks should be made out to The Angel Network of Cooperstown. Organizers of this group would like to make sure that people donating know that the group has not received non-profit status yet, so donations are not tax deductible.
The Angel Network sends home a flier at the beginning of the school year with students who attend CCS. The flier instructs people on how they can become an “angel” or how to seek assistance. In October families who have asked for assistance are contacted so The Angel Network can learn more about the children in need. This year, 35 families with 79 children reached out to the organization. At the time this article was written, 26 of those families had been assigned to donors.
The group starts assigning donors to needy families in mid-November. They also enlist shoppers. The shoppers are given money that has been raised through fund-raising events to purchase gifts for those people seeking assistance who have not been assigned to a donor. Gifts are dropped off by donors and shoppers at St. Mary’s on Dec. 10.