Freeman launches Holiday Fund drive
The Freeman today launches its 40th annual Holiday Fund drive to aid five community agencies that help the region’s needy.
The money raised by the annual drive, which runs through Christmas, is used by the agencies in a variety of ways, including helping a single mother pay a food bill, covering a car payment that’s late, providing money for a needy adult’s small medical expense or providing assistance to buy food or
The fund was begun in 1977 and has raised nearly $549,000. Last year’s total was $11,200.
Donations large and small are passed along to the fund’s primary beneficiaries: The People’s Place in Kingston, Family, and the Community Action programs in Ulster, Dutchess and Greene counties. Other regional charitable organizations may be added to the list if donations are sufficient.
All administrative costs are paid by the Freeman.
“For many of our struggling neighbors in Ulster County, the approaching holiday season creates additional stress,” said Christine Hein, executive director of The People’s Place, a thrift store and food pantry on St. James Street in Midtown Kingston. “The Free
man Holiday Fund is crucial to helping us support Ulster County families who are facing difficult times.”
Hein said the fund is especially appreciated as hunger takes center stage and that the agency uses the donated money to buy food.
“Hunger in our community affects all of us,” she said. “We, as a community, should care about hunger because thousands of our neighbors suffer each day. “
She said demand at The People’s Place food pantry is 15 percent higher this year than in 2015.
“A child is not able to learn in school if they are hungry,” Hein said. “For senior citizens with health issues, this is often an extra burden.
“A single mother often cannot afford to buy food after paying rent and utilities,” she added. “Most of
our people in need are working families, many holding several jobs. We need to be there to help.”
Hein supplied a quote from a woman aided by The People’s Place who did not want to be identified.
“I am the sole financial supporter of my two girls,” the woman said. “People’s Place has helped me this year in so many ways. I appreciate the extra food this past summer from the summer program, and the food pantry really helps me get through the month.”
Elizabeth Spira, chief executive officer of Dutchess County Community Action, said funding received by her agency is used in a variety of ways to help families become self-sufficent.
The agency, among other things, runs programs to help low-income families seek jobs, get small household repairs done, pay a utility bill, stock food pantries or provide people with meals.
Spira said those getting the assistance are appreciative.
“The families that we work with are very humble,” she said. “They are happy to know that there is somebody to help.”
In some cases, Spira said, clients are helped to “get over immediate hurdles ... to get their lives back on track.”
Florence Ohle, executive director of Community Action of Greene County, also said the Freeman fund meets a critical need. She said the donated money goes into the agency’s “discretionary fund.”
“There are many needs at present that cannot be address through our various grants, and there are many folks who do not qualify for assistance due to various eligibility requirements,” Ohle said. “Having discretionary funds allows us to fill in those gaps.”
Ohle said needs that can be met with the Freeman fund’s contributions include rent assistance, heating payments and vehicle repairs. Also, she said, the money can help stock the agency’s pantry with such items as hygiene products, toilet paper, laundry soap and diapers.
Michael Berg, executive director of Family of Woodstock, said without the Freeman Holiday Fund, his agency could not could not afford to buy the 2,000 holiday toys it distributes.
“We make it a better holiday for the children and their families,” he said.