Wish Factory takes a break this holiday season

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Skye Gillispie of Greenport wraps gifts for needy families last year as Lynette Crowley of Orient, left, looks on.

For the first time since 1995, the Wish Factory won’t be collecting, wrapping and providing gifts for the area’s neediest residents. But organizer Yvonne Lieblein is asking those who have generously supported the Wish Factory in the past to support similar community drives.

Ms. Lieblein, who started the Wish Factory in Greenport in 1995 and received 501(c)3 status to enable gifts to be tax-deductible in 2005, is unable to sustain the program this year because of other commitments. But that doesn’t mean an end to the project she said has been near and dear to her heart all these years.

She fully expects to resume her activities in time for Christmas 2012, she said.

“Making the decision to suspend this year’s Wish Factory holiday outreach was tremendously difficult for me,” she said. “My current obligations won’t allow me to dedicate the necessary time and focus.”

While she has worked with a core group of volunteers through the years, no one is able to take charge of things this year.

“I want to emphasize that the Wish Factory is not being discontinued indefinitely,” Ms. Lieblein said. “It’s my intention to grow the effort in the future and my decision to hit the pause button this year is integral to making that happen.”

The Wish Factory began as a small project in 1995 when Ms. Lieblein and a few friends adopted one local family in need. Each year, the effort “expanded organically to include more families and a growing troop of enthusiastic, generous supporters,” she said. In recent years, the numbers have increased; last year, the Wish Factory provided 40 people from 17 families with more than 200 hand-picked gifts from wish lists they provided.

Local businesses and residents provided wrapping paper and supplies for what became a large volunteer “wrapping party” each year. Ms. Lieblein has always worked closely with Community Action Southold Town to identify families in need. And with this year’s hiatus, she’s asking residents to help the CAST drive directly or to give to The Retreat, which assists victims of domestic violence.

CAST is requesting gift certificates from local stores, including supermarkets and drugstores, cellphone cards, books and unwrapped new toys for children 12 and under, according to executive director Linda Ortiz.

Last year, CAST provided gifts for 320 people and Ms. Ortiz speculated that number could rise this year. Items may be brought to the CAST office on Front Street in Greenport or to CAST collection boxes at participating local banks.

The Retreat’s program is similar to the Wish Factory in that donors are asked to “Adopt A Family,” according to spokeswoman Heather Nardy. That family may be a single person or a parent with several children. The donor receives a “wish list” of items family members have requested.

Last year, The Retreat provided gifts for 55 families and Ms. Nardy said that number could grow this year. To help The Retreat this year, call Ms. Nardy or Joe Simson at 329-4398.

[email protected]