Help Adopt-a-Family survive the holidays

There’s no doubt that this year, the year of COVID-19, the holidays will be tough for most families in America. After all, thanks to the pandemic, the “seasonally adjusted” number of unemployed workers in the U.S. in September of 2020 was 12.5 million, compared to 5.75 million in September of 2019. “Seasonal adjustment is a statistical method for removing the seasonal component of a time series that is used when analyzing non-seasonal trends,” according to www.statista.com.

According a report by Forbes magazine, 51 million Americans were unemployed this July — numbers that skyrocketed after the pandemic hit — with a record-breaking 17 consecutive weeks of 1 million-plus unemployment claims being filed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

On Sept. 18, the New York State Department of Labor released details about its Lost Wages Assistance program. “In total, New York has now paid $44.5 billion in benefits to New Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic — representing more than 21 typical years’ worth of benefits paid in just six months.” And that was only in mid-September.

Bottom line? Times are tough for New Yorkers — many, including local residents living right here in the Harlem Valley — have lost jobs, businesses and homes, and continue to struggle just to make ends meet. 

Now,  Halloween is upon us. Next up? Thanksgiving. Then it’s Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanza. These are the kinds of holidays that families like to celebrate together, something they might not be able to do this year thanks to COVID safety regulations and concerns of spreading the deadly virus to those we most want to protect. 

Not seeing our loved ones up close and in person is going to be difficult enough, but many families might not be able to afford to buy gifts for their children this year due to a lack of income. After all, without their jobs, there are no paychecks coming in — it’s hard enough just to scrounge up money to pay the rent or the mortgage, buy food, pay for utilities, car payments, gas, prescriptions, doctors’ appointments, childcare, warm winter clothing — the list goes on and on. To buy presents is somewhat of a luxury these days for many of us, but try explaining that to your wistful 5 year old who is counting on that Barbie doll or that Batman action figure. Not so easy, is it?

That’s why we’re so thankful that there are nonprofit organizations like Adopt-a-Family in Millerton, run by veteran volunteer Stacey Moore and her selfless helpers for the past 28 years or so after Moore and the late, great former Millerton Mayor and do-gooder Mariley Najdek dreamed it up. There must be thousands of children who have been outfitted with new, warm winter clothing as well as new toys, dolls, games, books, make-up, sports equipment — you name it — but nothing electronic — through countless donations over the years — big and small — from our generous residents and businesses. They’ve put big, shiny smiles on children’s faces every holiday season without fail.

But then came COVID. And now, Adopt-a-Family isn’t so sure it can deliver that happy holiday around the Christmas tree to children in need in the North East (Webutuck) and Pine Plains Central School Districts who are referred to the program by their teachers or counselors, by the food pantries that serve them or whose parents may register for it, who would otherwise go without during the holiday season.  

This year, Moore is asking donors only give cash (really checks), so she can buy gift cards at local stores for parents, so they can purchase essentials more so than toys (though it’s up to parents) and other luxuries. Less fun, perhaps, but more critical during the pandemic when many families don’t even know where their next meal is coming from. Moore is hoping to raise a minimum of $45,000 to cover the number of children she anticipates will register for the program, with estimates starting at around 300 applicants and perhaps growing from there. 

There’s a dire need. For nearly 30 years, the Harlem Valley community has stepped up and supported Adopt-a-Family, and Moore and those who volunteer with the program have appreciated every single act of generosity. Now, in this time of global crisis that’s landed right on our doorstep, she’s making one last Christmas wish: That those in the community who can afford to, pull together once more for the youngest among us and contribute whatever possible so local children can still believe there is a Santa Claus, even in a year when something called the coronavirus has taken 1,166,833 lives worldwide as of Tuesday, Oct. 27, and life seems so different and so scary.

To make a tax deductible contribution through the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, send a check to Adopt-a-Family at P.O. Box 880, Millerton, NY 12546.

For more on the Adopt-a-Family program, read reporter Carol Kneeland’s article on this week’s front page.

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