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United Way of the Adirondack Region distributes toys and gifts through governor’s Gift Giving Program

There was a flurry of activity at the United Way of the Adirondack Region on Monday as Santa helped distribute gifts to non-profit agencies that will help get the toys to children in need.

The United Way of the Adirondack Region coordinates low-income services with agencies across Clinton, Franklin and Essex Counties. President and CEO John Bernardi said about two weeks ago the governor’s office asked if they could coordinate distribution of toys and gifts to the most vulnerable children across the region on behalf of Governor Kathy Hochul.

“She was given funds by the Walmart Corporation and then she distributed those funds to five United Ways across the state, us being one of them. We purchased $10,000 worth of toys and gifts, roughly about 1,200 toys and gifts, to serve approximately 250 of the most vulnerable children in the region. We were able to use a network of our nonprofit partners, eleven agencies across the region altogether, who are helping us with making sure that these gifts get in the hands of the most vulnerable and at risk children in our region.”

One of the agencies collecting gifts to distribute is Families First in Essex County. Health Home Care Manager Janelle Bausman says over 200 children have submitted wish lists at their agency.

“We have our clients that we work with and any siblings that live in the home with them are able to submit a wish list for items that they would like. And we do our best to make sure that we get everything on their wish list specifically. And then once all the gifts are in at the office all the care managers and some of the direct service providers deliver them to the homes if possible. So we’re all over the North Country the next few days getting everything delivered and out to the families.”

The gifts are placed in large bags and brought to waiting cars.

“Here Santa let me help you. Got it Santa? That’s gonna have to go in the backseat Santa.”

State Assemblyman D. Billy Jones of the 115th district was helping pack the bags and cars with toys and gifts.

“We never want to see a child go hungry in the North Country. We never want to see a child go without clothing, housing or any of the essentials for life. This is just kind of a break from all that. Agencies are still giving out but they get to give a child a gift. They get to give a family a Christmas that otherwise may not have had one. It gives not only the people that are receiving those gifts a little bit of spirit but it gives the people that are giving those gifts, gives these agencies for the hard work that they do all year round, it uplifts them as well.”

Town of Plattsburgh Supervisor Michael Cashman praised the United Way for taking on the coordination effort.

“There’s a significant amount of need. But I would like to take this opportunity to remind people that the need goes on all year long. I would ask people that as you’re wrapping up your holiday season and get into January and February is to contribute food to our local food shelves. You know it’s not just a need of a gift. It’s a need of support. It’s not a hand out. It’s a hand up. And that’s what these programs are all about and that’s why I applaud the United Way so much is working with 40 different agencies, they may all have different mission statements but they all have a shared value and that’s helping out neighbors.”

According to the governor’s office more than 3,000 gifts will be distributed through the Gift Giving Program through the United Ways of the Adirondack Region, Greater Capital Region, and Broome, Cortland and Tompkins counties.

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