Joe Baganz and Becky Schermerhorn see a lot of faces every day in their deli on South Manor Drive near the railroad tracks in Kingston. They hear a lot of town talk and know a lot of people. When it became clear to them that quite a few locals, even some of their regular customers, had sustained significant losses during the storms that hit the area in September, they started talking about ways to help out. Like the tremendous efforts mounted by other organizations to fundraise for disaster relief – primarily targeting local farmers and residents farther up the mountain, where floods wiped away whole communities – their impulse is indicative of the generosity and compassion amongst people in the Hudson Valley region. People here want to do something to relieve others’ pain and suffering.
Baganz was aware that this outpouring of assistance – benefit concerts, dinners and collections of food and clothing – could soon die out, especially since new storms, new disasters continue to roll in, bringing new dire circumstances and making it really difficult for sustained help for those in need to be generated. “It was a collective idea,” he says, nodding his head toward the entire crew in Joe Beez Deli. “People are just not bouncing back, because things keep happening. We talked about what we could do.” They decided to launch the Great Gift Certificate Drive to collect as many gift certificates from area businesses as possible during the month of November, to be distributed at the beginning of December to families affected by recent storms.
They’ve enrolled Herzog’s True Value Home Center and Keegan Ales to join them in collecting gift cards and certificates, which can come from any type of business – grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, department stores, pharmacies – and in any dollar amount. Schermerhorn suggests that people spread the word through Facebook and other social media channels to collect donations at their offices and places of work, and then purchase gift cards of various amounts. If, for example, a company collects $50 from its employees, that can be converted to five $10 gift cards from area stores. At the end of November, all the gift cards will be combined and then separated into packets that will be distributed to needy families, so designated by Family of Woodstock or some other charitable organization in touch with the needs of the greater community.
“The holidays come up so fast,” says Schermerhorn, “and people are still cleaning out. Stuff we take for granted, they just don’t have it. We’re thinking, ‘What are these people going to do when Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around, and they’re still using their paychecks for the essentials, let alone buy gifts for their families or even a holiday meal?’”
The packets of gift cards will be passed out the first week of December to give people time to go shopping for the holidays, primarily to families with young children. “You’ve got to give kids something to dream about,” says Baganz.
Donations to the Great Gift Certificate Drive can be dropped off at Joe Beez Deli, Keegan Ales or to the attention of Paul Gallo at Herzog’s in Kingston Plaza throughout the month of November. And if you know of a family in need, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or send Joe and Becky a message on Facebook. Call (845) 334-9501 for further information.