OSSINING, N.Y. Members of the Ossining fire department aim to raise $16,500 this year to buy food for needy families in Ossining so that they can make holiday dinners.
"Last year we served 370 families. This year it will probably be over that if we get the funding that we need," said John Crawford, a former Ossining fire chief who is the chairman of the Baker-Collyer Chirstmas Cheer Fund.
The 96-year-old Baker-Collyer fund was started in 1915 after an Ossining resident named Glendon Baker noticed two children picking through a garbage pile looking for food. In 1974, the name Collyer was added to the fund name to honor former mayor and town supervisor Jesse Collyer who volunteered in the program for 48 years.
"The families are very grateful. It always brightens up your holiday to see people who are grateful and appreciative that they are able to have Christmas holidays together as a family," Crawford said. "Especially over the last few years since the economy has changed, the number of families has increased."
The Baker-Collyer program gets recommendations of needy families from local organizations, including the Ossining Food Pantry, churches, and the Interfaith Council for Action.
"They submit applications for assistance and we send them off to one of our committee members who sorts through recommendations for duplications," Crawford said.
Monetary donations are solicited by sending mail to residents and organizations within the Town of Ossining, including Briarcliff. Since the organization fell short of covering its expenses during the last few years, this year, it has increased its mailing in order to hopefully receive more donations, Crawford said.
Food given to families includes whole turkeys, milk, stuffing, potatoes, celery, macaroni and cheese, boxed soup, green beans, corn, applesauce, hot chocolate, apple juice and Cheerios. All the items are purchased from the A& P supermarket in the Chilmark Shopping Center in Briarcliff, at a discounted price.
After all the food is purchased, it is packed assembly-line style in a back storage area of A&P. This year, the packing will begin at 6 p.m. on Dec. 22, and the following day, volunteers will deliver the food packages to families using their own vehicles.
Volunteers are primarily members of the Ossining fire department, Crawford said.
"We're very grateful for anybody that does contribute," the former fire chief said.
Anyone who wishes to contribute to the Baker-Collyer Christmas Cheer Fund can drop off their donation at the Ossining town and village hall at 16 Croton Ave., or they can contact Crawford at 914-438-9843 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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