Vanessa Long cuddles sister Ava in front of goody bags. Photo Submitted
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By JILL RIFKIN
ALBANY — 300 eager volunteers transformed Grassroot Givers’ 12th annual Day of Simple Giving into a Day of Joyful Giving.
With passion and good humor, volunteers manned 20 work stations for three hours at St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The day’s effort of creating and organizing produced $30,000 worth of goods and holiday treats to be donated to Albany County’s destitute.
To date, the organization has collected and given away 260,000 books as well as thousands of dollars worth of new or like new used clothing, basic necessities, and household goods to people who cannot afford them.
Aware of their own good fortune, people of all ages and walks of life – Boy and Girl Scout troops, families, millennials, senior citizens, and business employees — worked in harmony to bring a measure of comfort and pleasure to their neighbors living in poverty.
Teagan McLoughlin, 5, came with her mother and sister. She was the first volunteer to send warm wishes to servicemen serving abroad.
“I’m going to write stuff and draw pictures for the troops,” she said, proudly. “I know it will make them feel happy.”
Handwritten messages from many volunteers will be sent abroad, along with Chapstick, puzzle and crossword books, and composition notebooks.
Liz Salerni and Rosina Ansaldo manned the book station where books are organized by grade level and then given to teachers who need them.
The cookie decorating table was staffed in part by enthusiastic children as young as 8-years-old. Some adorned themselves with frosting and sprinkles on their faces.
Teenagers worked side by side with elementary school students to craft beautiful bracelets and jewelry. Senior citizens and students from Green Tech packed warm socks and toiletries for the homeless. Items included shampoo, conditioner, lotion and other essentials.
“I’m determined to help out the community,” said Donell Henry, a high-school senior. “I want to get out of my comfort zone and volunteer more.”
A Girl Scout troop from Selkirk wrapped bars of soap and washcloths, and tied them with ribbon. Teenagers from Jack and Jill, an African American youth group organization, assembled bean soup mixes with 10 varieties of beans and spices.
“When you see caring hearts and loving outreach, it reinforces the sense of good so prevalent in all of us,” said Congressmen Paul Tonko, who circled the room and chatted at length with volunteers.
At the close of the Simple Giving event, weary, but smiling and several volunteers hefted hundreds of bags filled to the brim and put them in cars, all headed for many of the nonprofit agencies the organization partners with.
“We were delighted with both the turnout and with the warmth, camaraderie, commitment of all our volunteers,” said Roberta Sandler, Grassroot Givers co-director.
Sandler’s counterpart, Mary Partridge-Brown made a promise for next year.
We’ll be back next year to assist our public schools, homeless shelters, and nonprofits that serve people in need. “
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