The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Volunteers spread joy to 300 at Christmas dinner

By R.J. MARX
AMY DRUCKER PHOTO

Christmas day with family and friends at St. Mary’s School.

 

Three hundred guests and more than 100 volunteers spent their Christmas holiday at St. Mary’s School in Katonah. The Westchester Community Christmas Day Dinner, celebrating its 18th year, featured Santa Claus, merry elves, an abundance of food, Christmas carols and even a holiday “rap” from a group of Mount Vernon teens.

LaToya, a mom from Yonkers, brought her entire family to the event, including seven children and her mother, at the invite of Westchester County Family Services. “This is the best Christmas dinner I’ve been to yet,” she said, with son Mark, 4, and daughter LaDream, 2, awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus.

The turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, salad, fruit and “tons of dessert” provided a feast for those in attendance. “The mashed potatoes and gravy were my favorites,” said LaToya.

“People started coming in at about 11,” said volunteer Carol Brostoff of Scarsdale. “The bleachers were covered with donated clothes. We have little elves that come to each of the tables and ask what they want. We have good gifts, gloves.”

“I’m enjoying myself,” said Akeem, a Yonkers resident who rode the school bus to the event and especially enjoyed the pasta and the turkey with stuffing. “It’s my first time here. I’m enjoying myself, I got clothes for my kids and I’m having a ball right now.”

“I’ve never been here,” added Akeem’s girlfriend, Tiffany, also from Yonkers. “Everything is good.”

Volunteers shared the enthusiasm of the guests. “It’s a fabulous turnout; we’re filled to capacity,” said Licia Sandberg of Katonah, who was busy directing groups of volunteers, assisting guests and spreading merriment. “These people prepare all year for this. Today we have all new stuff, donated by almost every store in town, every restaurant in Katonah.”

Ms. Sandberg was the co-organizer of the event with Katonah resident Ben Harvey.

Her son, Mills Reed, provided an able hand. “I’ve been serving and setting the tables,” he said. “It’s going well. I’m having fun.”

The guests were invited to the event by a variety of Westchester outreach organizations. Along with the Department of Social Services, local churches, the Community Center of Northern Westchester — which extended 150 invitations — and others shared invites with Westchester’s neediest, including those who are homeless, families with disabilities, or unable to provide.

Bedford’s town clerk, Boo Fumagalli, was on hand for her second year as a volunteer. She served as transportation coordinator, beginning this year’s arrangements back in June. “Guests come from Yonkers, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Ossining, Bedford, Mount Kisco, Peekskill, White Plains,” Ms. Fumagalli said. “My job is to contact all the agencies, find out how many people they need, send out the invitations with tickets, arrange for the transportation.

Ms. Fumagalli said she was especially moved by the performance of the rappers from a program organized by the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau. “They’re homeless young men who have some criminal pasts,” she said. “They’re trying to refocus, and Mount Vernon Youth helps them with their education and legal problems.”

Katonah’s Lucy Stewart headed up the donation bins that were located throughout stores in Westchester. “The local communities get very excited,” Ms. Stewart said. “We have two in Katonah; we have Mount Kisco, Chappaqua. We found the smaller stores have been more successful. We have a group of volunteers who check each of the bins every couple of days. I start checking them in November, and then we send them out before Christmas.”

Ms. Stewart said that Jennifer Sizemore of Katonah Yarns headed up a special program this year that included 400 hand-knit caps, which had been created by local knitters, including a group that met once a week at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.

“They are allowed to knit once a week,” Ms. Stewart said. “It’s hard to get in the program, and they’re very excited about it.

Mohegan Lake-based social worker Patricia Smith brought two clients to Sunday’s Christmas dinner. “This is my first year, and so far it’s going great,” she said. “I think the most important thing is that people aren’t alone, they’re together. To bring us together it takes a community — this is what a community is.”

Ms. Smith said that events such as this served an important purpose. “I think the way our economy is today, I believe this is something Westchester and Putnam are going to be needing to survive this.”

“Food that is left over is packed up for taking home,” said Ms. Brostoff. “They pack it up; they go home with food as well. Santa’s going to be coming, and there was a singer who played the guitar and sang. They were given out the list of songs with the words for Christmas carols.

The Katonah Art Center provided the centerpieces, all made by local families, under the direction of the center’s David Hughes.

Meal plates, metals and plastics were all recyclable this year, for the first time, said Ms. Sandberg. “We’re maxed out with volunteers, and every seat is filled,” she said. “We’ve attempted to get healthier food.”

“There have been so many touching moments,” said Ms. Sandberg. “Incredible moments.”

“It’s very rewarding but heartrending at the same time,” added elf Jim Mazzola.


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The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

NEWSSTAND LOCATIONS

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Perks – 197 Katonah Avenue    

  4. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center;
    294 Katonah Avenue   

  5. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center;
    280 Katonah Avenue    

  6. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

  2. Connie’s at Northern Westchester Hospital
    400 E. Main Street    


South Salem/Vista

  1. JNR Pharmacy – 222 Oakridge Commons;
    Route 123   


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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DECEMBER 30, 2011