Local charities survive this holiday season after sponsors back out

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Greenport Village Clerk Sylvia Pirillo wraps gifts for the area's neediest children on Monday at the Old Schoolhouse in Greenport. The village scrambled to organize its annual Children's Christmas Party at the Recreational Center after the event's main sponsor backed-out this month.

Just like in years past, six village employees wrapped toys, gloves and socks for the area’s less fortunate youngsters in the Old Schoolhouse on Front Street in Greenport Monday night.

But this year was different.

This time around the volunteers almost didn’t have any gifts to wrap for the village’s annual Children’s Christmas Party at the Recreational Center.

The group that has supported the event the past several years told the village about two weeks ago that it won’t be participating this year, because it decided to sponsor a different event instead this year.

Village Clerk Sylvia Pirillo said she was amazed when the community stepped up to the plate.

“It might sound hokey, but they saved Christmas for our children,” Ms. Pirillo said while tying a bunched of wrapped gifts together with ribbon.

After the village received the bad news at the last minute, Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said she immediately sent out an S.O.S. to village employees and community members.

“I’m very proud of how everyone pulled together,” Ms. Phillips said as she cut red Christmas paper. “We’re already preparing for next year and we’ve found a lot of people willing to help.”

Ms. Pirillo said many village employees, as well as the Greenport Rotary, Peconic Landing, Peconic Landing Trust, North Fork Parish Outreach, the McMann Price Agency and the Greenport Fire Department contributed to the cause.

Although the village has been scrambling to secure sponsors, Ms. Pirillo said the community’s support overall has been “tremendous.” The village will be able to provide gifts for the 43 children enrolled in the village’s after-school program and gifts will also be given to their siblings.

“We expect to have a present for each child,” she said.

The village is still seeking more donations for children between the ages of 5 and 12 years old, such as socks, hats, gloves, scarfs and coats.

Although the village won’t be able to provide frozen turkeys to the after-school program’s families this year, Ms. Pirillo said each family will receive a $50 gift certificate to the IGA grocery store.

Village Hall hasn’t been the only one seeking assistance in helping the area’s less fortunate this holiday season.

Some local community groups have also been affected by Greenport-based Wish Factory’s decision to not contribute to local charity events this year.

Wish Factory, which provided 40 people from 17 families with more than 200 hand-picked gifts last year, announced in November that it’s unable to sustain the program this year due to other commitments. Yvonne Lieblein, who started the Wish Factory in Greenport in 1995, has said she plans to resume her activities in time for Christmas 2012.

Community Action Southold Town, or CAST, has worked closely with Wish Factory over the past several years to identify families in need.

Katria Nieves, office manager at CAST, said so far her group has only adopted four families. Last year, through help from Wish Factory, CAST was able to adopt 15 families.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have help from the Wish Factory, but it isn’t stopping us from making sure Christmas is being taken care of,” Ms. Nieves said.

In addition to CAST’s “Adopt A Family” program, it will hold its annual Client Christmas Distribution from Dec. 19-21 at 16 Sterlington Commons in Greenport.

The property owner, Bill Kreisner, donated the vacant store to CAST for the charity event, along with $1,000 worth of toys, Ms. Nieves said.

Those toys, as well as other donated gifts, will be displayed where needy families that have been clients of CAST for at least a year will be able to pick out their holiday gifts.

Ms. Nieves said her group is still seeking donation of toys for children ages 12 and under, such as early learning toys, children’s books, board games, department store gift cards and sleepwear.

The Retreat, a domestic violence support group based in East Hampton, has also been affected by Wish Factory’s decision.

Heather Nardy, a spokeswoman for The Retreat, said that while her group is adopting about the same amount of families it adopted last year, the Wish Factory’s support helped ease some of the burden of making Christmas special for nearly 50 families.

“Working with the Wish Factor was very helpful,” she said. “Last year, they adopted six [of our] families. That took some pressure off us.”

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