GAMP FUND

Videoconference donation actions. Food bank supplies. Non-profit organizations have been adapted to continue providing services to people in need.

Amelia Nirenberg

In December, millions of families stocked up on gifts as part of their Christmas preparations, a way to share with others while shopping for their loved ones.

Families have volunteered at the food banks to pack at weekends and make sure their neighbours get a hearty meal at the end of the year. In the offices, employees left gifts wrapped under the trees in the lobby of the building. In the shops, parents would take their children to buy winter coats for children of their own age and hold the coats in their hands to see if they fit.

But this year the annual traditions were about to change.

Since March, charities and non-profit organizations have been mobilizing for the holidays, looking for creative solutions to ensure that the people they serve get what they need.

It’s more than just toys, says Bishop Kevin Sullivan, executive director of the Catholic charities of the Archdiocese of New York. It’s not unreasonable for the families we’re helping. These are the most needy families. They won’t get a sweater unless we buy one.

Fundraising this year was a challenge, as was obtaining the necessary items – warm coats, canned soup, a gift for a child who experienced this terrible year. Catholic charities, one of the ten organisations supported by the New York Times Neediest Cases Foundation, has therefore made its agreements. Every year there’s the St. John’s Project. Nicholas, who brings winter clothes and more to families in need and needs attention all year round. Volunteers generally profile families and individuals and race together at Kmart.

Through profiles, buyers can not only find out the age and height, but also the preferences of the people they are helping. If a little boy likes football, they try to put on gloves. When the little girl is about the same size as her own daughter, she will model the clothes to make sure they fit her.

Volunteers don’t just buy a sweater, says Bishop Sullivan: You buy a green sweater. He moved on: This is what we create as a human community.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, shopping was a personal pleasure. But like many other groups, Catholic charities have moved to virtual shopping, where volunteers videoconferenced parties and used Amazon wish lists.

It would have been more efficient to just buy 700 versions of the same black jacket, said Griffin O’Shea, who helped organise the collection. But he said that love in action isn’t really like that. Each of these families deserves special attention.

About 600 families gathered for shopping and about 750 families received gifts and winter supplies. This year, the campaign distributed more than 800 gift vouchers for basic winter items and helped around 4,000 people in total.

Some charities focus more on toys and gifts, although they also provide basic needs. Westchester Jewish Community Services, the beneficiary agency of the UJA Federation of New York, which is also supported by the Foundation, has also put its annual toy drive online. In total, it was able to provide 1,000 families with gifts and gift cards.

Donations have also changed this year. Instead of organising a large pick-up at the head office, employees all over the province drove to deliver the gifts directly to the families.

People today are very passionate about giving back where they live, says Susan Lewen, Director of Development. We usually receive more toys than requested and we can meet larger requests.

Another nonprofit organization, Children’s Aid, which is supported by the Foundation, refers all requests for financial and emergency assistance to Johnnyme Williams-Gales, Director of the Office of Client Advocacy.

We usually see the need for a holiday, she said. This year, she added: People are so exhausted. Mental and physical. It’s like… How do you celebrate the holidays?

Today, families who have always paid rent are struggling, she says, and the hardships extend to groceries and other bills.

If you ask us for financial help, we’ll keep looking, Mrs. Williams-Gales said. It’s like peeling an onion, because there are layers and layers of problems and needs a family can have.

In addition to their staff, non-profit groups increase their reach by relying on volunteers such as Virginia Bryan. Mrs. Bryan, 60 years old, spends about 10 hours a week in her car, singing with country singer George Strait or listening to Christmas music from the Caribbean, where she was born.

A school bus driver in Louisville, Colo. Miss Bryan was put on unpaid leave when her district went online. As a result, she spends more time bringing food from the local food bank to the elderly in her community, many of whom stay at home, to minimize the risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Every time I do something, I tell them: I see you, she says. I look her in the eyes and I laugh at her.

The masks have made things more difficult, she says, but it’s not a big obstacle. They can make your eyes smile, says Bryan, who has been volunteering for four years.

The food bank where she volunteers, Community Food Share, is a member of Feeding America. The food bank has distributed 10 million pounds of food since the start of the pandemic. That is two million pounds more than in the nine months of last year and Mrs Bryan sees the need for that first-hand.

Her finances are tighter now that she’s not working. However, if someone says something in an informal conversation – like B. An urge for sweets – it works like a balm.

If that’s what it takes, that’s what I’m gonna do, she said. I never want anyone to feel unloved.

Donations to the Foundation for the Needs can be made online or by cheque.

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