With families and businesses being forced to cut back this holiday season, programs that help provide kids with the gifts that make Christmas special have been concerned.
But at The Chamber of Southern Saratoga's Chamber Angels program, tough times didn't stop businesses and individuals from giving, and the program recorded a landmark year for both need and generosity. Some 392 needy children will be receiving gifts with which to celebrate Christmas, up from 374 last year.
The sense I was getting from agencies I work with is that the need is greater, said Denise Romeo, Chambers Angel coordinator and vice president of membership and development for the chamber. "The need was greater, but the sponsorship was greater than it's ever been."
The program works with twelve area agencies like Catholic Charities, the Mechanicville Community Center and several school districts to compile wish lists from underprivileged kids in Saratoga County. Members of the chamber then sponsor the children, buying and wrapping their presents. The presents are then dropped off to the chamber and distributed through the agencies.
Individuals and other groups get into the spirit as well.
Local Boy and Girl Scout Troops are frequent participants. The program also accepts monetary donations to fill any gaps in sponsorships to make sure as many kids get their wish fulfilled as possible.
The chamber suggests that sponsors spend around $150 on presents, though many go above and beyond. Using that formula, the program raised around $80,000 in gifts, including monetary donations.
Over its 19 years of existence, Chamber Angels has provided a Christmas morning to over 5,000 children with over $750,000 of donations.
"The Chamber Angels program is one of the many programs within our Chamber of Commerce that enhances the quality of life we enjoy in southern Saratoga County," said Peter Aust, president of the chamber, in a statement. "We are blessed with many generous businesses and individuals who understand the value of giving back to their community and helping those less fortunate than ourselves."
According to Romeo, the yearly effort is a great way to help out area kids and strengthen the community.
"I've been doing this project for six years, and it has just grown and become a very heartwarming project that gets all facets of the community involved," she said.""