POTSDAM Volunteers are signing up as donations come in to help neighbors in need this holiday season.
The Potsdam Holiday Fund already has 250 families to feed this Christmas and is expecting 100 more before Dec. 18, when it distributes its annual food baskets to families in need around the county.
The Potsdam Holiday Fund provides turkeys, stuffing, a variety of vegetables, a dozen Christmas cookies and a voucher that can be used at any grocery store in the area, each Wednesday before Christmas for families in Potsdam, Madrid, Hopkinton, Nicholville, Brasher Falls, Chase Mills, Fort Jackson, West Stockholm and Winthrop.
Laura J. Cordts, board member of the Potsdam Holiday Fund, said bigger families will receive a bigger turkey and more money on the voucher.
We usually do about 300 families altogether for the food baskets, Ms. Cordts said. The need is just as great as it was a year ago because I really havent seen much change in the local economy.
Pamela Yurgartis, president of the Potsdam Holiday Fund, said that although it broke a record last year, delivering food to 320 families, it has 350 food baskets this year and hopes to distribute them all.
There are a lot of families living within marginal means, Mrs. Yurgartis said. The unemployment rate is high up here.
Mrs. Yurgartis said the Potsdam Holiday Fund acts as a clearinghouse for money donations, which it uses to purchase food.
We dont really set a goal each year. We just distribute the donations that come in to where the need is, she said.
Mrs. Yurgartis said the deadline for the food applications is Saturday.
Ms. Cordts is responsible for recruiting volunteers and organizing and dividing up the delivery routes.
She said that so far, 25 volunteers have signed up to help deliver the food Dec. 18, and 12 people have volunteered to help assemble the baskets the night before at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Castle Drive.
Members of the Potsdam Rotary Club who volunteer play a major role in the distribution each year, according to Ms. Cordts.
For years weve felt that there are so many families and senior citizens in need in the community that whatever we can offer around the holidays to give people a financial break during that time of year is appreciated, Ms. Cordts said.
She said the volunteers also make the initiative a part of their Christmas traditions.
Ive had volunteers say that coming to do the deliveries is the best part of their Christmas season, she said.
The Potsdam Holiday Fund, with the help of Potsdams Kiwanis Club, also distributed 2,000 gifts to children up to age 17 last year that were donated by community members.
The Kiwanis Club distributes giving trees each year, which consist of tags stating the gender and age of a child in need, to different businesses in the area.
Community members can take a tag, purchase a gift for that child and return it to the tree at the business where its located.
This year, trees have been put up in 53 businesses, according to Potsdam Chamber of Commerce Director Marylee E. Ballou.
Kiwanis Club members will collect the donated gifts from the businesses in about two weeks and take them to Potsdam United Methodist Church, where they will be wrapped before being distributed Dec. 14.