Seeking ‘Santa’s Helpers’ to make Christmas merry for children and teens
Families First in Essex County’s outreach efforts include making the holiday season merry and bright for children and teenagers.
Staff members spent the month of November talking turkey in order to coordinate and prepare Thanksgiving dinner boxes for 91 families from throughout Essex County. The program, which included whole turkeys with all the fixings, was funded by donations from the community.
“We really appreciate the generous donation of local businesses and individuals. Without their support, it wouldn’t be possible for us to do this,” said Executive Director JoAnne Caswell.
As the holiday season approaches, the organization is turning its efforts to a drive to supply Christmas/Holiday gifts. Last year, Families First provided gifts for over 250 children and teens. There are currently over 50 children and teens available to be “adopted” by community supporters.
“For Christmas, the feedback we’ve gotten from a lot of parents is sometimes kids wouldn’t have a Christmas without this, or an extremely limited Christmas. Every child deserves a joyful, carefree Christmas,” said Caswell.
To adopt a child, teen or family anonymously, and receive a personalized shopping list, contact Coordinator of Youth Services Deborah Mitchell at 518-873-9544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Requests to adopt a child need to be received by Dec. 7, and all items need to be delivered to Elizabethtown by Dec. 14 in order to ensure timely delivery of the gifts.
“The gifts go directly to the parents to give to the children to ensure that Christmas is as good as it can be. A lot of our families are led by extended family members, such as grandparents, and are on limited incomes. It’s especially tough as this winter is already shaping up to be an expensive one for heating,” said Mitchell.
Families First is also collecting hygiene gift sets, such as Bath and Body Works, Axe, Old Spice and other toiletries, for children and teenagers. Donations may be dropped off at the front desk at its Elizabethtown office.
“Some of our adopters also adopt the parents, providing gift cards to Tops Cards or Stewarts Cards to help provide food and gas for transport,” said Mitchell.
Individuals wishing to make financial donations can mail checks to “Families First, Attn: Christmas Drive, P.O. Box 565, Elizabethtown, NY 12932.” Donations can also be made online by visiting www.familiesfirstessex.org. Families First is a 501(c)3 organization, and donations are tax deductible. Financial donations will be used by caseworkers to ensure all youth gets something under the tree.
Families First exists to bring hope and support to the community by raising awareness of children’s mental health issues and serving families whose children have those issues. The organization works in partnership with families throughout Essex County.