Remember what was happening the day before Thanksgiving? Snow came down — lots of it. It stuck around just long enough to put a serious dent in one of Family of New Paltz’s biggest annual fundraising events: the New Paltz Turkey Trot 5K race. The actual course of the run had to be diverted off the sloppy rail trail onto Plains Road both ways. Worse, according to executive director Kathy Cartagena, Family’s net receipts from the event turned out to be “off 50 percent or more” compared to Novembers past.
Though Family maintains a year-round commitment to tackle “any problem (large or small) under the sun” for needy members of our community, demand for a number of its services — food, shelter, help with fuel and utility bills — peaks in the wintertime. Food donation drives typically climax around Thanksgiving, with lean times returning after the first of the year. And folks who truly can’t afford to buy Christmas presents for their children turn to organizations like Family to help them make the day a little brighter with donated toys.
But luckily for the organization and its clients, the year’s end is also the time when the gainfully employed are thinking about what sort of charitable deductions they might want to claim on their tax returns. There are plenty of worthy causes out there, all clamoring for our support in their year-end appeal letters; but for many of us, the charities that help unfortunate people close to home are the ones that tug hardest at our heartstrings. And for the third year in a row, a member of our community — financial analyst and writer David Sterman, whom Cartagena calls a “wonderful asset” to the organization — has stepped up with a generous offer to sweeten the pot for Family: a challenge grant that will match every $2 in donations with $1 of his own.
The fundraising campaign goes by the name of “It Takes a Village,” and all you have to do to ensure that your donation gets matched is to write those four words in the memo line on your check made out to Family of New Paltz and send it by December 31. Although you can also make a donation by credit card over the phone or on the Family website, Cartagena points out that the quick liquidity of a donation by check is often a decided advantage, in terms of addressing short-term gaps in the organization’s budget.
“What I love about the checks is that it means that I can go shopping when I’m out of something,” she explains. “Right now our food pantry is down to the last few pieces of meat. It’s unbelievable how much food we go through. Today we gave out 12 food packages in one morning. Each package contains enough food for three days.” Food donations are always welcome, and especially so after the usual fall food drives — not to mention the bounties of harvest time at local farms and CSAs — have come and gone.
December 31 is an important milestone for Family of New Paltz in another way as well: It’s the date of the organization’s first-ever gala (if you don’t count the one that Family volunteers tried to cater on their own at the Community Center about five years back). It will be hosted this time by a true professional: Novella’s of New Paltz, the banquet hall at 2 Terwilliger Lane. “The place was just renovated, and it looks terrific!” Cartagena enthuses. “We have such fabulous things for the silent auction. There’s a lot of artwork, including a beautiful canvas from Steve Jordan.”
Themed “All that Glitters,” the gala runs from 7 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on New Year’s Eve and includes a cocktail hour with open bar, hors d’oeuvres served butler-style, a buffet dinner and dancing to a live band called Diamonds in Jupiter, topped off by a champagne toast and party favors at midnight. The menu (which can be viewed on the Family of New Paltz Facebook page) looks enticing indeed, with choices that range from filet mignon, chicken with chanterelles and salmon with tarragon beurre blanc to fancy vegetarian and vegan entrées, sides and salads.
“We just went over the top to make sure it was wonderful,” says Cartagena. “I think it’ll be an annual event.” She adds that, although the invitation reads “formal attire,” that doesn’t mean black tie: “Just don’t come in your jeans or pajamas.”
The price to spend New Year’s Eve in this elegant manner, and also support an organization that provides priceless services to the destitute, homeless, hungry, mentally ill, teen runaways and domestic abuse victims in our community? $125 per person, $200 per couple. But you need to RSVP soon: Call Family of New Paltz at (845) 255-8801 or 255-7957 and ask for Kathy. For more information on the gala, the “It Takes a Village” campaign and other ways in which you can help, visit the Family website at www.familyofwoodstockinc.org. Donations by check can be mailed to Family of New Paltz, 51 North Chestnut Street, New Paltz NY 12561 (and don’t forget to write It Takes a Village on the memo line!).