Fill The Bag

With hundreds of needy families hoping to enjoy a wholesome meal and perhaps a few toys this holiday season, local organizations are doubling their efforts to deliver the goods – and encouraging the public to do the same.

Jeffrey Smith, executive director of St. Susan Center in Jamestown, said the center is always looking for food items like 100-percent juice, cereal, crackers, gift cards for milk and non-perishable items like canned fruit.

Cash donations are also greatly appreciated, he said.

“When people ask me if I would rather have cash or food (donations), I always say cash because cash can be stretched out much further,” Smith said. “If we take $10 and go to the Food Bank of WNY, we can get about $70 worth of food. And since the number of meals we serve is increasing every year, cash donations become very helpful.”

Smith said other much-needed items include napkins, dish soap, laundry detergent, aprons, as well as winter hats, gloves and socks.

“(Individuals), families or businesses can mail a check to the St. Susan Center (at 31 Water St., P.O. Box 1276) or they can go online to stsusancenter.org and make an online donation through PayPal,” Smith said. “You don’t have to have a PayPal account to donate.”

Smith added that credit card donations can be made over the phone at 664-2253. Electronic receipts will be sent back for confirmation.

This week, 250 turkeys and a bag of groceries – courtesy of Jim Rauh with Tabone Paving and BWB Accounting Firm – will be handed out to families in need of a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

While sign-up for this giveaway has ended, families can still enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at the center on Nov. 26, from 12:30-2 p.m. Overflow attendees can be served a meal at the Salvation Army, located at 83 S. Main St.

The community can also donate to the center via two holiday fundraisers. The first is a holiday basket sale courtesy of the Basket Co. Six different baskets are available, ranging from $12-27. They can be purchased online at the center’s website or through calling the center.

Orders need to be in by Dec. 4.

Smith said the center is also holding a Holiday Cash Raffle, in which tickets are sold for $20 apiece. On Thanksgiving Day, the winners are drawn, with a first place prize of $1,000, second place $500 and third place $250. Tickets can be purchased at the center or through check or money order to St. Susan Center. Only 300 tickets will be printed.

The holiday season is also a busy time for the Salvation Army of Jamestown, which, according to its corps officer, Captain John Merchant, will focus more on the Christmas season.

“We have over 550 families that have already signed up for food on Christmas Day, and then we give them a three-day supply of food that will help them get through that last week before the (paychecks) or Social Security checks come in,” Merchant said. “We also give three gifts apiece for kids 12 and under.”

Merchant said the food will be distributed on Dec. 17-18 at the Salvation Army building in Jamestown. With an estimated 700 families and 2,000 children expecting to turn out, Merchant said it would be really helpful for people to volunteer from Dec. 14-18, to help with either sorting or handing out goods.

As far as donations, Merchant said the Salvation Army is always looking for hams and turkeys, as well as toys, winter hats and mittens. It would be great, he said, if donations arrived by Dec. 11 for the distribution days.

“There’s also lots of volunteer opportunities,” Merchant said. “If people can volunteer an hour or however long they wish, they can help with the kettles (which began Saturday).”

Merchant said he hopes to raise $105,000 in Jamestown this year, and $40,000 in Dunkirk.

“The Salvation Army, as a whole, is all about community … and this money goes back into the community to make sure people’s needs are met,” Merchant said. “If people are not able to ring the bells or get out to do anything, they can always go online (at empire.salvationarmy.org) to start up their own virtual kettle and donate that way as well.”

For those who may be traveling to the Buffalo area, the Food Bank of WNY is hoping to receive frozen turkeys and whole chickens – a dire need this year after the bird flu outbreak raised prices on poultry across the country.

Starting Wednesday from 4 p.m. to Nov. 25 at 10 a.m., 97 Rock and WKBW-TV Channel 7 will be holding the 10th Annual Operation: Rock Out Hunger at the Eastern Hills Mall parking lot, located at 4545 Transit Road in Williamsville.

DJ Jickster of 97 Rock is expected to move into a 48-foot Food Bank of WNY trailer for the week and collect donations of frozen turkeys and whole chickens, non-perishable food items and cash to benefit the 116,691 individuals who rely on the Food Bank each month.