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C.S.A.C. Holiday Sharing Program Is In Full Swing

Donations still needed to make the Holidays bright

It is reassuring to know that here on the north shore of Long Island, while the poor are never far away literally, they are never forgotten virtually. There is a caring system embedded into the community to provide for others – in this affluent community. Those in need yesterday often become the donors of today: the reverse sometimes happens. As life goes on and changes, people remember what the difference is between having and not having.

At this time of year the annual Holiday Sharing Program run by CSAC, a committee of the Interreligous and Human Needs Committee is in full swing. Co-chairs of the Holiday Sharing Program, Carol and Randy Daub were seated on the wooden bench in the Meditation Garden in the back of the First Presbyterian Church on Monday, Nov. 21. They were overseeing the distribution of foodstuffs for Thanksgiving dinners, part of the annual program.

“It took us two months to get up to this point,” said Cindy Daub, seated where the donations for the Thanksgiving dinner program are delivered; organized; and picked up on Tuesday evening by families who are economically challenged. “It’s been going on since 9 a.m. As soon as we opened the doors the volunteers were here.” Inside the parish hall students from Harmony Heights senior class were picking out foods such as cans of pumpkin, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes, from cartons and putting them into boxes each marked with a number and a code telling how many adults and children are in the family to be served.

Many Donate

Kristen Reardon came by with an envelope of donations from the 16 children in Oyster Bay Cooperative Playschool’s third class of which her son Owen is a member. “They had their Thanksgiving Feast today. I’m picking up my mother’s pot that had chicken stock in it. They made pasta. They cooked peas. They made cranberry relish last week. It’s great that they do a lot of cooking,” she said

Bev Zembko the Oyster Bay Cooperative Playschool’s director said everyone in the class donated to the food drive. “Everyone knows there is a need in the community and they all want to help,” she said.

For the Daubs it’s just like cooking a dinner - coordinating and getting everything to come together at the same time takes dedication. “It’s time consuming. There is so much work to get to this part. I haven’t seen the top of my dining room table for two weeks. I miss my table, but I can’t use it during this time. Every pile has its own file,” said Cindy. She said it all begins as she gets a stack of letters recommending families for the food program. The requests have to be evaluated and the list is checked with other community group’s lists to see that there is no duplication.

She also has a volunteer list of people who come to do the sorting and packing, as well as the volunteers who come Tuesday night to help bring the food out to cars. It was, at one time, members of Rotary; currently the members of the Italian-American Club are filling that need.

“I am also handling the cash contributions now that Matt and Linda Morgan have relocated down south. Then there are the thank you letters for those contributions that have to be sent.

“The first fundraising letter goes out in October. When the request lists are gone over, letters go out to the families telling them they will be served by the Holiday Sharing Program. Then letters go out to the senior citizens saying they will receive certificates for food.

“All of that happens on the dining room table. Anybody that touches that is in big trouble,” she said.

The cross references are checked out with Shirlee Gerstein at the Youth & Family Counseling Agency of Oyster Bay-East Norwich; and with Dawn Leat who is in charge of St. Dominic Outreach program. “YFCA recommended a lot of families to us, but they also serve some of them with their adopt-a-family program. We get names from the churches, the schools, the Hispanic Cultural Center, from the Life Enrichment Center of Oyster Bay, and from the Oyster Bay Housing Authority. Our list comes from all over and we have to go through every single recommendation. We have 113 families with children and 90 Senior Citizens or individuals who get food certificates. We call it the “small list”-households where there are one or two people, all adults, and to get food certificates. Some seniors are on special diets; some have no place to cook.

“On the parish hall floor and tables, are boxes with the number of adults and children through the age of 14. Over age 14 they are counted as adults because they eat like an adult,” she said.

Later, all those children’s names are translated to the number of children in a family but with their sex and age added so they know what kind of toys to provide in the Toy Drive. “They also get a second round of food certificates for Christmas. They are so grateful for everything we give them,” said Ms. Daub.

At the Oyster Bay Civic Association meeting, President Bill Von Novak said last year he volunteered to wrap packages for the toy drive. By chance he had to return to the church and saw many of the recipients and he said, “They are our neighbors. you’d be surprised at whom they are.”

One person was missing that day, Joe Ferraro. Cindy said, “Joe Ferraro got Randy hooked on coming down to help. Joe was here on Long Island last week and Randy saw him. We miss him all the time. {Mr. Ferraro, a former Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District administrator, continued to work with the Holiday Sharing Program long after he retired from the district and until he and his wife Ginnie retired to the Buffalo area to be close to their children.) One son lives in Buffalo and the other in Vermont. He and Ginnie just drive across I90 from one to the other.”

The Daubs were at the First Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Nov. 20 until about 4:30 p.m. The annual Interreligious Interfaith Service was held at the church that evening. The Rev. Jeffrey Prey said, “There was a good turnout. It’s never really that large. We focused on sharing testimonies of gratitude. The clergy spoke of thankfulness. The choir was beautiful – I can say that because it was our own. The offering brought in $138 which went to the Holiday program.”

Pastor Prey said the First Presbyterian Church was very busy Friday, Saturday and Sunday with its annual Victorian Fair. “There was a good turnout, with great spirit and was positive overall.” An element of the fair is a rummage sale that brings people from all over for the great buys on gently used clothing, toys and items.

“They have wonderful silent auction items, too,” said Beverly Zembko adding that her daughter Lauren had bid on a few of them. “Last year we won the Florida vacation at Indian Shores Beach and it was such a wonderful condominium. I was wondering if someone won it this year.” Ms. Zembko was going to her sister’s for Thanksgiving. “I make the cranberry bread, It’s a tradition. That, and I will bring Jericho apple cider, which I will get at Christina’s. She is wonderful. When the Playschool does the annual run with the senior center, she donates a huge bowl of fruits. I go in and get dinner there often. The food is wonderful, especially after a day of working it’s wonderful to enjoy,” she said.

Christina’s Epicure is very generous to the community. At every benefit raffle the basket from the store is a popular item to bid on and win! “You give to the community and we’ll pay you back,” said Ms. Zembko.

Back to the needs in this tough economic time, Ms. Zembko said, “Times are tough for a lot of people. I read that the INN is giving chickens instead of turkeys because of the economy.”

By now it was near noon and a second group of students from Harmony Heights was coming in to help. The original group of ladies were being instructed to go though the boxes and see that nothing was being crushed – to organize them. When the rest of the senior Class of 2012 arrived, Ms. Daub explained to them how the program works. “Family number 74 has two adults and three children. Of course, one of those adults might be a child over the age of 14. There is a star on the number if there is a baby. Sometimes we get a lot of donated baby food so we put it aside for those boxes. Every family receives an orange letter saying they are entitled to help – which they bring with them on Tuesday night. Each family receives two boxes of foodstuffs, and a bag of apples, oranges, carrots, onions and maybe turnips. Everyone gets a five pound bag of potatoes and a frozen turkey when they come that evening.

“When I see you next time, for the Toy Drive, those numbers on the boxes will be used to tell us how many children there are to serve. Then we will know that the girl for instance is 9 and the boy is 8. That helps when picking out the toys,” said Ms. Daub.

Harmony Heights teacher Lorraine DeBellis said to the girls, “That’s what we did with the money from the bake sale – donated it for the program.”

Serving the Children

Bev Zembko is also the Oyster Bay Rotary Club director of community service said, “In that capacity, I get to see firsthand how well the groups are working very closely together. I see that YFC is working with St. Dominic’s Outreach as Rotary does its gift certificate program for school supplies.

 “We no longer concentrate on the elementary school; the program now includes the junior high and the high school. Rotary has a program, working with Jason at Buckingham’s. He gives us discounts for the much needed school supplies.

“Rotary spent $1650 on gift certificates to 66 children who received $25 gift cards this year. We leave it up to YFCA and to St. Dominic’s to evaluate the families need and sometimes the child will get two or more certificates. We found that the $25 donation was a good system that they can give out based upon need.

“We used to provide money for Texas Instruments Scientific calculators that used to cost about $60 to $75. Now the school district itself has to supply them. They are considered textbooks. As they do with most electronic equipment, I hope the price has gone down. At one time, we provided backpacks for the elementary school for those in need, but now other groups have taken that on. That is why Rotary expanded into the school supplies program,” said Ms. Zembko. A past OBEN school board member, today Ms. Zembko runs the Oyster Bay Cooperative Playschool and works with Rotary. She is the longtime chair of the Oyster Festival Food Court. Rotary makes much of the money it donates from the Oyster Festival it runs.

On Friday morning, Carol Daub said everything worked out well for the Thanksgiving program. On Monday, Dec. 28, she said they would start sending out the second round of gift certificates. “It seems like that stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas gets shorter,” she said. The Toy Drive is their next project for holiday sharing.

Randy Daub said the Toy Drive takes place on Dec. 19 and 20. at the First Presbyterian Church parish hall. “Money donations can be sent to C.S.A.C. and if people want to they can drop off unwrapped toys on Monday, Dec. 19. By Tuesday we will be bagging all the toys for pick up by the parents.”

He said he didn’t know at the moment how many children would be served. “We will be getting the list the next week or so,” he said. Volunteers are already lined up for that work. One of them is Rosemary Colvin, a retired Oyster Bay High School teacher who at one time ran the program.

To donate to the Holiday Sharing Fund you can send checks to the C.S.A.C. Holiday Sharing Program, Box 231, Oyster Bay, New York 11771. All donations are used towards the purchase of Stop & Shop food certificates. “Let us not fail those less fortunate than ourselves!” said Carol and Randy Daub, co-chairs of the C.S.A.C. Holiday Sharing Program. For more information please call 922-2054.