Free­man launches Hol­i­day Fund drive

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Kirby pkirby@free­manon­ paulat­free­man on Twit­ter

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

hol­i­day toys.

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.

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