WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The hustle and bustle of the holidays will be here before you know it.
To get local residents into the spirit of giving, Lifting Up Westchester (LUW), a White Plains-based non-profit which provides homeless and poverty services to individuals throughout Westchester County, is launching a Holiday Lift campaign which kicks off Saturday, Nov. 5.
The campaign offers multiple opportunities for the community to spread holiday cheer and lift the spirits of Westchester’s men, women and children in need.
Holiday Lift activities will include distributing warm coats and winter clothing, providing 2,000 holiday meals from the LUW soup kitchen, filling and distributing 500 holiday food bags, and wrapping and delivering hundreds of holiday gifts. It will take an army of volunteers to get it done.
“Preparing and serving holiday meals at Grace’s Kitchen on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s is our most popular volunteer activity” said Paul Anderson-Winchell, executive director.
“We get calls as early as August and all of those slots are now filled. But there are many other ways for people to help and it’s always heartwarming and humbling to see the community come together during the holiday season to make sure that everyone has something to eat, receives a small gift or has warm gloves for the cold winter ahead. This is when we see the best of humankind.”
Rhesa Browne, a Berkeley College employee, began volunteering at Lifting Up Westchester last holiday season. After organizing a successful holiday toy drive for college staff she said, “I was motivated to do more because there are many needy people in Westchester.
"I immediately decided to volunteer my time helping in any way that I can. Recently, I made a commitment to volunteer at Grace’s Kitchen every other week because I realize that individuals in need also need to be treated as people, and a smile and a warm meal can definitely make a difference in someone’s day.”
This holiday season Browne has organized a staff drive to collect $25 gift certificates from Target, Walmart, McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts to distribute to teens in LUW’s Brighter Futures After-School Mentoring Program.
Nancy Inzinna, LUW Volunteer & Community Outreach Manager said, “We get lots of donations of toys and games for young children at Christmas, but teens are often forgotten and they love to receive gift cards so they can shop for themselves.”
A winter clothing giveaway will launch LUW Holiday Lift activities on Nov. 5 with students from the White Plains High School Key Club on hand at Grace Episcopal Church in White Plains to sort and distribute coats, hats, gloves, scarves, sweaters and other donated clothing.
The clothing giveaway will be followed by Pie Day on Saturday, Nov.19.
Said Inzinna: “We never seem to get enough donations of holiday desserts, especially pies. The kids in our youth programs love pie, so we’re trying to make it easy for people to bring in donations of their favorite pies to make Thanksgiving a little more delicious.”
On Pie Day, home baked or store bought pies can be dropped off from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. at the agency’s head office at 35 Orchard St. in White Plains (just off Hwy 287 Exit 6). Donations of brownie and cake mixes are also welcome.
LUW is also hoping to receive donations of home baked Christmas cookies.
“The guests at our soup kitchen seldom get a taste of home-baking items and nothing says Christmas like a plate of Christmas cookies,” said Inzinna. She added that getting children involved in baking and donating holiday treats is a great way to introduce them to the spirit of giving.
Below are some other ways that the community can help:
- Organize a food drive and involve your neighborhood, school, religious organization or community group. Foods needed most are turkeys, hams, instant mashed potatoes, gravy mix, stuffing, canned vegetables, canned cranberries, cake and brownie mixes.
- Donate the free turkeys that many grocery stores give away at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
- Donate $25 grocery store gift cards for food bags given to vegetarians and families who traditionally eat something other than turkey and ham for their holiday meals
- Donate NEW gloves, hats and scarves for residents of the Open Arms Men’s Shelter and Samaritan House Women’s Shelter
- Donate sports balls, board games and multi-cultural dolls for the children and teenagers in the Brighter Futures Youth Programs.
- Donate cash online at www.liftingupwestchester.org to help fill any gaps or last minute needs.
For specific dates and timing information on Holiday Lift activities, contact Nancy Inzinna at email@example.com or call (914) 949-3098 ext. 9735.
Go to www.liftingupwestchester.org for more information.