Getting in the Spirit, early in life

Don’t think you can stand hearing the kids moan, “Mom, I’m bored!” one more time over their next school break? Dread the thought of letting them wander in the mall? Here’s a suggestion: get them involved in some volunteer work over the holidays. The needs are great, and the opportunities for young, eager people are vast.

• For those who want to start small, most libraries have opportunities for young helpers. The Somers Library has spots available for those willing to cut out and sort supplies for arts and crafts projects in their children’s room. Contact Children’s Librarian Cathie Morton at (914) 232-5717 for more information. The Katonah Library can use shelf readers year round. They ask for high schoolers who are familiar with the Dewey decimal system, as the job involves sorting books and dusting. This is done once a month, and days and times are very flexible. Contact Virginia Fetcher or Van Kozelka at (914) 232-3508, and be sure to check with your own local library for opportunities.

• Community Service Associates in Mt. Vernon is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping any Mt. Vernon family or resident who needs a meal, or is going through crisis. They serve over 72,000 meals each year, and one of their most vital programs in which young people can participate is serving food. Breakfast is served from 6:45-7:15 a.m. daily, and dinner is from 5-5:45pm Tuesday through Friday. Young people can help serve dinner, individually or in groups of six or more. If volunteers can carry a tray, they are old enough to help. The second most important program they provide is through their thrift shop, Finders Keepers. The shop receives donations, then re-sells items to help raise funds to support the kitchen. It’s run completely by volunteers, and they are always looking for people who can help fold clothes, mark items with price tags, keep things neat and hand out flyers to help spread the word about the shop to as many Westchester residents as possible. The shop is open from 10am until 7pm, seven days a week, year round. “Drives are also a great thing that kids can do,” says director Roberta Apuzzo. “We have a great need for items like #6 brown lunch bags, cereal, coffee, Reynolds Wrap and eggs. Kids can talk to their local grocery stores or supermarkets to help gather some of these items.” The program is going into its 15th year, and any groups of six or more people interested in volunteering should contact Apuzzo at (914) 668-1428. Individuals can just show up at 49 South Fifth Ave. in Mt. Vernon.

• Food-PATCH (Food People Allied to Combat Hunger), located at 358 Saw Mill River Road in Millwood, is a non-profit food bank that distributes quality food supplies to food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and residents throughout Westchester County. There is a great need for food drives, as donations provide most of the food they give out. During the daytime hours, they can use volunteers to help pre-pack meals, sort cans of food and mixed goods, and label cans. They also a gift-wrapping booth open for the holidays. Anyone from age 8-15 is welcome, and they ask for an adult chaperone for groups. Food-PATCH is open Monday through Friday from 9am until 4pm, and on Saturdays once a month from 9am-1pm for planned groups. Other opportunities throughout the year include helping with mailings (such as stuffing envelopes), and fundraising. Interested parties should contact Barbara Johnston at (914) 923-1100, who can also put you in contact with a program near your home.

• The Carver Center at 400 Westchester Avenue in Port Chester is a multi-service community agency for Port Chester’s residents, in existence for almost 60 years. They provide many activities, including after-school programs and a teen center. Their goal is to help residents meet their life needs and reach self-sufficiency. High schoolers are encouraged to offer homework help in the after school program, organize games with kids in the gym, teach kids to swim, and provide computer help to those in the program. They can also use groups to make sandwiches and bring them in for the participants in the after school program. Young people aged 12 and up are needed to help in the food pantry sorting and distributing food, especially at holiday time. Young people can also assist with gift-wrapping and toy sorting over the holidays; there is no age minimum as long as they can wrap a present. The after school program is open Monday through Friday from 3-6pm. Interested parties should contact volunteer services coordinator Gladys Ruiz at (914) 939-4464.

• Those ages 14 and up interested in working with young children are encouraged to contact Maria Leitenberger at St. Agnes Children’s Rehabilitation Center at (914) 681-4655. The Center has several programs for children with multiple disabilities, ages 1-7 years. The children are grouped by age, but have mixed disabilities. Volunteers with experience babysitting or working with young children can observe and then assist teachers with arts and crafts projects, teaching the children how to play, reading them stories and sitting with them at lunchtime and helping them eat. “The experience can be a little overwhelming at first because the children often have equipment to help them with their disabilities,” says Leitenberger, “so we like to have new volunteers observe for a while before assigning them to a classroom.” Volunteers can offer time on an ongoing basis if they wish, and would be assigned to a particular classroom. All volunteers need to fill out an application, and are subject to a medical check for immunizations. The Center is located at 305 North Street in White Plains. Additional locations in need of young volunteers include: • New Rochelle Humane Society, Portman Road, New Rochelle. Contact Dianne Heine, volunteer coordinator at (914) 632-2925. This non-profit animal shelter needs volunteers age 14 and up to help with cleaning, making cat toys, putting down cat bedding, brushing cats, stuffing dog toys with treats, collating and copying volunteer packages. Open 7 days from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., and on Thursdays from 10am-1pm and 5–8pm.

• Guiding Eyes for the Blind, 361 Route 164, Patterson, NY. Contact Vikki Iwanicki, volunteer coordinator, at (845) 878-3330. Volunteers ages 16 and under needed to collect newspapers and raise money for animals’ vaccinations. Family opportunities also exist for providing home socialization of animals, and puppy raising, a long-term commitment.

• Coachman Family Center, 123 East Post Road, White Plains. Contact Dawn Hobby Cousin, volunteer coordinator at (914) 345-2800. The largest non-profit organization in Westchester provides housing for the homeless and offers a wide array of social services. Volunteer opportunities for ages 13 and up include tutoring school-age children and providing child care until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Weekend activities include nature and other programs at various sites in Westchester. Young people aged 16 and up also needed to provide computer help for school age children, organizing toy drives, wrapping gifts.

• Salvation Army Thrift Shops, various locations. Monday-Saturday. For New Rochelle, contact Captain Haun at (914) 632-5255. Peekskill, contact Major Becker at (914) 737-0280. Tarrytown, contact Envoy Miranda at (914) 631-3871. White Plains, contact Captain Lloyd at (914) 949-2908. Yonkers, contact Captain Kahn at (914) 963-1222. The greatest need around the holidays is for volunteers to sort and hang clothes for sale and to bag extra donations for shipment to other countries. No age minimum.

• Volunteer Center of United Way, 470 Mamaroneck Ave., Suite 204, White Plains. 7 days per week. Contact Liz Garger, director at (914) 948-4452. Volunteers ages 13 and up needed to mentor young people, teach seniors how to use email, etc. Multiple programs throughout Westchester County provide assistance in nursing homes, hospitals, and community organizations. Volunteers will be placed where need is greatest.

• Jewish Community Center of Mid-Westchester (JCC), 999 Wilmot Road, Scarsdale. Contact Jan Borger, youth and teen director for volunteers at (914) 472-3300, ext. 322. This non-profit, full service agency offers multiple programs, from arts and music to technology camps. Their “Tween” and teen programs for volunteers ages 11-13 range from making sandwiches for the Open Arms Shelter in White Plains, to special projects and causes once a month throughout the county.