By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – The season of giving may have officially ended, but United Way of Delaware & Otsego Counties is continuing it with a “Keeping You Warm Inside and Out!” donation drive.
“The holidays when people donate a lot are over,” United Way Volunteer Coordinator Valerie Adams, who is overseeing the drive, said. “But there are still people who are hungry and need warm clothing, and the end of January, beginning of February is our coldest time of the year.”
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 21, volunteers will tie ribbons around packets of food and warm clothing and hang them from trees in Huntington Park, inviting community members to take what they need.
Adams saw Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which has become a day of service for communities across the country, as “a nice excuse to keep giving to people.”
“I want the decorated bags to be presents,” she said. “These are gifts to the community, not something you have to ask for.”
Adams chose Huntington Park as the spot to hang the presents because a lot of foot traffic goes through it. And they are hanging the items in trees, so that it is anonymous.
“People can just take a bag or hat off of a tree or bush and no one has to know,” Adams said. “It’s hard for people who are really struggling to ask for help. When you don’t have much left, you want to hold onto your self-respect, and so you may not ask for food or other things. We want people to get the food they need and be able to stay warm this winter.”
UWDO volunteers have placed boxes, wrapped in shiny, blue and gold foil and decorated with snowflakes, at participating local business sites in Oneonta, for people to drop off non-perishable food items and gently used or new warm hats, gloves, scarves, and mittens through Thursday, Jan. 17.
And in addition to cold-weather clothing, UWDOC is asking for food which you add hot water to and can heat in a microwave, such as soup, oatmeal or macaroni and cheese, as well as coffee, hot chocolate packets and tea bags. “Not all homes have stoves where people can make hot food, but they may have a microwave or be able to use a microwave to do it easily.”
The organization also is seeking “snack packs” for kids, such as packages of crackers-and-cheese, crackers-and-peanut butter, cookies, granola bars, etc.
And Adams is also keeping another important aspect of the just-ended season: wrapping the donated items in colorful packaging and ribbon. UWDO staff and volunteers will put the food in gallon-sized plastic bags, decorated by Springbrook school students, ages 8 to 14.
Adams only started her position as United Way’s Volunteer Coordinator in November, but she has already seen there are many people in Delaware and Otsego Counties who are “food insecure,” which the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.”
According to U.S. Census data, 16.3 percent of the Otsego County’s population and 15.9 percent of Delaware County’s population live below the poverty line, which is higher than the national average of 14 percent. The largest demographics living in poverty in Otsego County are female, ages 18-24, followed by men, 18-24, and women, 55-64. Delaware County’s largest demographics living in poverty are men, ages 55-64, women, 45-54, and women, 55-64.
UWDO and volunteers will meet at the First United Methodist Church at the corner of Chestnut and Church Streets at 9 a.m., Jan. 21, where they will get the clothing and food bags ready to hang in Huntington Park. After UWDO and volunteers have hung everything up, they will go back to the church for lunch, provided by UWDO. The gift bags and winter clothing will be on the trees for a week following Jan. 21.
Food and clothing items donations will be accepted in collection boxes at the following locations: Bank of Cooperstown, CDO Workforce, Community Bank, N.A., Huntington Memorial Library, KeyBank, NBT Bank, Northern Eagle Beverages, Inc., Sidney Federal Credit Union, The School At Springbrook and SUNY Oneonta.
If you would like to volunteer for the “Keeping You Warm Inside and Out!”, please contact Valerie Adams at (607) 267-2091 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org sign up. You can also find information on their Facebook page,https://www.facebook.com/unitedwaydo/