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Lewis County Christmas Sharing has new registration procedure, leadership

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LOWVILLE — The Lewis County Christmas Sharing program is undergoing some changes this year, both in the way people register and those at the program’s helm.

New this year, county residents wishing to receive food boxes and presents through the program will no longer be able to do so by telephone. Instead, they must attend one of several registration events that will be held throughout the county during the month of October.

Also, James M. Freeman, who founded the program 35 years ago with the late James F. Manzer, has turned over the reins to Michael and Nancy Hanno.

“Now, I’m working as a consultant, should I say,” said Mr. Freeman.

Mr. and Mrs. Hanno said they, along with food co-chairs Thomas and Tina Stanford and other board members, hope to continue building on the program’s successes and provide for those in need during the holiday season.

“I don’t think any child should wake up Christmas morning without a present or Christmas dinner,” Mrs. Hanno said.

Program leaders are now working with local fire departments to establish a schedule for Christmas Sharing registration events. Plans are to hold them in fire halls throughout the county Saturdays during the month of January. Those interested will need to bring photo identification and proof of address to register.

While eligibility is income-based, program officials said they reserve the right to waive such guidelines in extenuating circumstances, such as when a family is going through some unexpected difficulties.

Organizers said they are also working to implement measures designed to avoid people double-dipping, as resources are limited and totally dependent on donations from companies, organizations and individuals.

“There’s only so much food, and it only goes so far,” Mr. Freeman said.

Kraft Foods has been particularly generous, donating a tractor trailer load of food each year, he said.

Roughly 2,000 gifts and 700 food boxes were handed out last year. This year, distribution is slated for Dec. 16.

Those wishing to donate money toward the effort may make checks payable to Lewis County Christmas Sharing, in care of the Lowville Food Pantry, under which the program is incorporated.

While stepping back from the chairman role, Mr. Freeman said remains “hooked” on the program and plans to continue being actively involved.

“This was my baby, something I started 35 years ago in memory of my dad,” Mr. Freeman said. “The only way I’ll ever give it up is if I die.”

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