Community Center of Northern Westchester: Bringing holiday meals to neighbors in need

Thanksgiving and Christmas would not be the same without the delicious holiday meals that go along with them. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetable casseroles, home-baked breads, and an array of delectable desserts grace the holiday dinner tables of most area residents.

But what if there was no turkey, or much of anything else?

The Community Center of Northern Westchester makes sure this does not happen to the many neighbors in need whom it serves, mounting a huge holiday food collection and distribution drive that insures traditional holiday meals will be on the dinner table for all.

“The response from our donors this year has been great,” said Clare Murray, assistant director of operations, when The Ledger visited the bustling operation located at 84 Bedford Road in Katonah. “Individuals, schools, religious and community groups have all come through for us.  There has been a real groundswell of enthusiasm from the entire Northern Westchester community.”

The mission

The Community Center of Northern Westchester works to improve the well-being and self-sufficiency of neighbors in need in Northern Westchester by providing food, clothing, programs, and other resources. The organization is committed to treating all with dignity and respect and encourages broad involvement and participation by residents and originations in the communities served.

“Our needs are the greatest starting at this time of the year and extending through the winter months,” Sherry Wolf, executive director, said. “People rely on us to put together a nice holiday for their families. Approximately 800 families will use our services starting now through spring. Beginning Oct. 1 the center started collecting food and monetary donations for its 2015 Holiday Food Drive.”

The Holiday Food Drive is in addition to the many other programs and services the community center provides, like  the food pantry and gently used clothing from the Clothing Boutique. The center works directly with clients to assist them in gaining access to other resources, including health care, education and social services.

Volunteers teach a variety of classes, including English language and computer skills. The center provides clients with assistance in job searches, résumé writing and interview skills. In conjunction with other local groups, including libraries, the center makes clients aware of potential employment opportunities.

The 2015 Holiday Food Drive asks for a specific list of donations to help families prepare holiday meals.

They include frozen turkeys up to 12 pounds, frozen turkey breasts, frozen roaster chickens, flour in one- or two-pound bags, sugar in one- or two-pound bags, vegetable oil in kitchen size, instant or ground coffee, tea bags in small boxes, hot chocolate, and butter cookies or shortbread.

All donations of food may be brought to the Community Center, 84 Bedford Road, Katonah. Hours for dropping off donations are Tuesday through Friday from 10 to 4 and Saturday from 10. to 1.

Share the Warmth

In addition to the Holiday Food Drive, the center is running a Share the Warmth collection of new, warm sleepwear, robes, socks, and slippers for children, including infants and teenagers. Share the Warmth items will be distributed to families from Dec. 1 through Dec. 23. Anyone interested in helping with distribution may call the center at 232-6572 or send an email to .

Drop-off hours are the same as for donations of food.

“The range of donors we get each year for our program is wonderful,” said Wolf. “We have more than 30 community partners, and everyone gets involved; even children as young as 3 years old come to the center for drop-off. It’s heartwarming to see.”

Wolf said that in 2014, more than 2,000 families came to the center for help, and 35% of those who received help from the center’s year-round food pantry were children.

“At this time of the year, people are eager to share their gratitude for what they have by helping others,” Wolf said. “The generosity of the Northern Westchester community is outstanding, and we could not continue on without the support received from so many.”

Anyone interested in volunteering or who has a question about donations may call Assistant Director for Operations Clare Murray at 232-6572 or email [email protected]

Community Center volunteers Susan Downes (left) and Hatsy Vallar display a selection of the most in-demand items for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for families who need assistance. — Jane K. Dove photo

About author
Jane K. Dove is an independent journalist and publicist working in the tri-state area. A native of Chicago, she is a graduate of Loyola University of Chicago and honed her skills as a writer working as associate director of public affairs at New York Medical College. She has reported for the Ledger for three decades.

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