Tonawanda News

November 18, 2012

Hoping for generosity in time of increased need

Local campaigns hope for generosity in time of increased need

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Skies are still sunny and snow has not yet made its appearance, but the Tonawandas have already started to acquire that little bit of something extra for the holidays.

Toy collection bins for the annual Rockin’ With Santa campaign are now out at local businesses, said John White, organizer of the 12-year-old campaign, which collects and distributes toys for families in need across the region, culminating in the annual Rockin’ With Santa music event.

White said the campaign seeks to provide some Christmas magic for children in 140 families this year, an increase from previous year’s events. Names of those families in need of assistance are provided through the YWCA of the Tonawandas and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and many individuals and groups throughout the area help with the event, he said.

”You have the community involved, people in the community, the business community involved, and groups like the Exchange Club and the Zonta Club,” he said. “It’s a big community-involvement miracle, really. It really is.”

Rita Alviti, who with Karen Szafran is one of the outreach coordinators at St. Vincent DePaul, said that need is “absolutely up this year.” 

“As far as Thanksgiving goes, we already have a lot more (who need assistance) than last year, and Christmas will be a lot more than that,” she said, adding that heating bills are up, gas costs are up for those who have a car — and bus travel is more expensive and complicated as fares go up and routes go down.

While Rockin’ With Santa makes it possible for families to have a few gifts under the tree, it also frees up groups like St. Vincent de Paul to focus on clothing for the entire family and food for all ages. Need is also up for the elderly, Alviti said. Anyone who would like to donate time and/or items for any age group can call 693-6247 for more information.

“It’s getting more and more difficult,” she said. “About 50 percent (of the people helped) are working poor; they’re working hard, but they can’t make ends meet. It’s very sad.”

White echoed her words, stressing that there’s no duplication in services and that families who are helped by the campaign are not “double-dipping.”

”It’s important that people understand that,” he said. “These families are proud families, they don’t mean to be in this situation, but something put them there.”

Maria Angelova, director and family and human services at the YWCA of the Tonawandas, which also provides names of those in need to the Rockin’ With Santa campaign, also said local need for help of all kinds has been on the rise.

”This year, I would say, the need has almost doubled,” she said, lauding White and campaign volunteers for what they do. “They do such an amazing job. They are so unbelievably generous and it’s really an invaluable service to our clients.”

This year’s Rockin’ With Santa event will take place from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Twin City Elks Lodge 860, 55 Main St., Tonawanda. Entry is a new, unwrapped gift for a child from infancy through 16 years old. Music will be provided by Night Eagle from 7 to 9 p.m. and Silver Xtreme from 9 to 11 p.m.

In addition, this year’s toy drop-off sites are: The Tonawanda News, 435 River Road; Submasters, 105 Main St., and the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas, 15 Webster St. in North Tonawanda, and Fast Teddy’s, 221 Main St.; Tonawanda Fire Headquarters, 44 William St., and the Twin City Elks Lodge 860, 55 Main St., in Tonawanda.

Submasters in North Tonawanda is a new participant this year. Manager Tom Daniels said he contacted White because he wanted to do something for the community.

”We know there’s a lot of needy families out there,” he said. “Growing up as a child, my happiest memory was always Christmas morning. A lot of children are growing up without that memory, and it’s just a shame.”

To sweeten the deal a little, customers who drop their donations off at Submasters will receive a free piece of pizza, Daniels said.

”It doesn’t have to be a big present,” he said. “There are kids of all ages. Even something small will help.”

The campaign is also in need of monetary donations, which can go toward gift cards for older children, who tend to ask for things like music, headphones, etc., White said. “We don’t supply those, so we get the gift cards. Every year, we buy more cards.”

He also asked that people consider donating toys geared toward older boys and girls, as well as those for smaller children. “Everybody drops off the trucks and the Barbie dolls ... but you’re missing that little group between 12 and 16.”

Last year’s Rockin’ With Santa took a sudden turn when the venerable Elks Lodge 860, where it had been held for years, was gutted by fire the morning of the event. About 50 to 60 gifts were lost, but the event went on at the American Legion Post 264.

White vividly remembers that early-morning telephone call last year, when he realized the event was in jeopardy ... and how it felt when people stepped up and it was saved.

”Now what we’re trying to do is say, ‘We’re back and so are the Elks,’ “ he said. “This is their first big community event since the fire. We’re trying to promote it as that, too.”

•••

In the Town of Tonawanda, the Youth, Parks & Recreation Department this week placed its 2012 Christmas toy collection barrels at sites throughout the area. The department is collecting new, unwrapped toys through Dec. 10

”We’ve been successful with this,” said Dan Crangle, councilman and chairman of the youth, parks & recreation committee. “Townwide, it’s been run for 25 years; youth, parks & recreation have run it for 15 years.”

Crangle said social workers at the elementary schools, both public and private, are contacted to provide information about families who might need that little bit of Christmas help. Donated toys are sorted by age group and distributed according to that information.

”We’re talking a lot of barrels,” he said. “It’s a sight to see when you see all the toys given out there. They range from every price range. There are some giving people out there.

”There are a lot of families we put smiles on for Christmastime.”

Toy donation barrels in the Town of Tonawanda are at the Municipal Building, 2919 Delaware Ave.; Town Police Station, 1835 Sheridan Drive, Paddock Chevrolet Golf Dome; Highway Department, 450 Woodard Ave.; Water Treatment Plant, 218 Aqua Lane; Wastewater Plant, 770 Two Mile Creek Road; Water & Sewer Maintenance, 525 Belmont Ave.; Building Department, 525 Belmont Ave.; Tonawanda Community Federal Credit Union, 257 Highland Ave. and 215 Delaware Ave.; Brighton Arena; Lincoln Arena; Youth, Parks & Recreation Office, 299 Decatur Road; Aquatic & Fitness Center, One Pool Drive; and La Hacienda Brighton, 900 Brighton Road.

In Kenmore, donation barrels are the Village of Kenmore Police Department, 2395 Elmwood Ave.; Village of Kenmore Department of Public Works, Elmwood and Mang avenues; Philip Sheridan School, Elmwood Avenue; Dollar General, 3170 Delaware Ave.

•••

Adding to the early sights and sounds of the Christmas, the familiar red kettles — and their bell-ringers — are already out and about for another year.

The Salvation Army in the City of Tonawanda kicked off its bell-ringing campaign for Christmas on Nov. 2. This year’s goal is $160,000.

Major Celestin Nkounkou said there has been an increase in need for many programs, including food pantry usage, senior meals and those participating in youth activities. The Salvation Army serves 135 to 140 families a month, a 20 percent increase from last year, he said.

The Christmas toys program is no exception.

”So far we have over 320 children registered,” he said. “By the time we finish signing people up, we may be close to 400, which is more than what we had last year.”

In addition to “red kettle” contributions, other donations are always appreciated, Nkounkou said.

For more information, call 693-3110. To donate online, visit onlineredkettle.org, choose “find a kettle” and search for “Team Tonawanda.”

TO HELP • Rockin' With Santa toy collections bins are located at the Tonawanda News, 435 River Road; Submasters, 105 Main St., and the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas, 15 Webster St. in North Tonawanda, and Fast Teddy's, 221 Main St.; Tonawanda Fire Headquarters, 44 William St., and the Twin City Elks Lodge 860, 55 Main St., in Tonawanda. This year's Rockin' With Santa event will take place from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Twin City Elks Lodge 860, 55 Main St., Tonawanda. Entry is a new, unwrapped gift for a child from infancythrough 16 years old. Music will be provided by Night Eagle from 7 to 9 p.m. and Silver Xtreme from 9 to 11 p.m. • The Town of Tonawanda's 2012 Christmas toy collection barrels are located at the Municipal Building, 2919 Delaware Ave.; Town Police Station, 1835 Sheridan Drive, Paddock Chevrolet Golf Dome; Highway Department, 450 Woodard Ave.; Water Treatment Plant, 218 Aqua Lane; Wastewater Plant, 770 Two Mile Creek Road; Water & Sewer Maintenance, 525 Belmont Ave.; Building Department, 525 Belmont Ave.; Tonawanda Community Federal Credit Union, 257 Highland Ave. and 215 Delaware Ave.; Brighton Arena; Lincoln Arena; Youth, Parks & Recreation Office, 299 Decatur Road; Aquatic & Fitness Center, One Pool Drive; and La Hacienda Brighton, 900 Brighton Road. In Kenmore, barrels are located at the Village of Kenmore Police Department, 2395 Elmwood Ave.; Village of Kenmore Department of Public Works, Elmwood and Mang avenues; Philip Sheridan School, Elmwood Avenue; Dollar General, 3170 Delaware Ave. New, unwrapped toys are being collected at all barrels through Dec. 10 • For more information on the Salvation Army's 2012 campaign, call 693-3110. To donate online, visit onlineredkettle.org, choose "find a kettle" and search for "Team Tonawanda."