COVID-19 has not stopped the important work of Minisink Cares, the community-based program that provides support to families throughout the school year.
This year is the 30th year the organization is assisting those in need, with organizers “reimagining” the way help is given this year due to CDC, state and local mandates.
The pandemic has not deterred the group’s commitment to helping those dealing with difficulties. This holiday season, assistance will be provided to approximately 70 families.
‘…Our Minisink families needed us and we were determined to be there for them.’
“None of us could have imagined what life would become since the news of the COVID pandemic,” said Debbie Roda, Minisink Cares Board of Directors president. “Amidst all our own turmoil, emotions, and new ways of doing the seemingly ‘normal things,’ our Minisink families needed us and we were determined to be there for them. The committee met and came up with a new plan for this year to help our community families, now, when they need us the most.”
Minisink Cares isn’t able to collect and distribute goods, gifts or food as in previous years. Instead, because of the generosity of donors, Minisink Cares has taken cash donations to buy gift cards to supplement the many gift cards already received.
Each family will receive an envelope for each of their children containing gift cards to purchase presents for them and ShopRite cards to help with meals since a food drive wasn’t possible this year. Families will also receive a food basket from a local organization.
“We hope each family is seeing how much love and support they have from total strangers at a time when they are in need of a little help,” said Ms. Roda.
Recipients are grateful
Families definitely say they’re feeling that love and support.
“We’ve been on the program for three years, maybe more,” said Jane Smith (not her real name), who has a preschooler, two elementary-aged children and one in middle school. “Every year, my children get gifts from strangers. It’s been a blessing that my children are able to participate in this program.”
Mary Jones (also not her real name) has four children, too. She needed to switch from being home full-time to working full-time because of her husband’s chronic illness.
“We’re a family of six with only my income now,” said Mrs. Jones, a Minisink native, who has children in the elementary, intermediate and middle schools plus a preschooler. “My husband has had three major surgeries in three years, since we moved into the district. My child’s elementary principal reached out to us when hearing about our situation, asking what can they do to help us? They wanted us to know they could help assist us with Thanksgiving and Christmas. But they also wanted us to know the emotional support was there.”
Sue Miller (not her real name), a former Minisink Cares student recipient, agreed the support made a huge difference in her family’s life for many years.
Now studying for her master’s degree with a dream of someday working as a Minisink Valley teacher, Ms. Miller reached out to organizers to see what she could do to payback the generosity offered at a time it was really needed.
“I want to help bring a smile to the kids and the community people in need,” said Ms. Miller a member of the Class of 2013. “Especially now, it’s important to keep the good vibes around and have kids still receive something for Christmas. I want them to smile and be positive.”
Grateful for overwhelming support
All three women wanted donors to know how grateful they are for the support of complete strangers.
“We’re hoping that sometime in the future we can be in a place to help struggling families as well,” said Ms. Smith.
“Back in the day, when I was receiving help, it was a hard time for my family,” added Ms. Miller. “It made a difference.”
Ms. Jones felt similarly.
“Words can’t really explain,” she said. “I get emotional just thinking about it. Sometimes you think it’s shameful, to ask for help, like you didn’t do something right. But you guys make it so easy to accept help. Thank you, thank you. I know everybody’s struggling. But, the amount of support is just overwhelming. This is a very loving community.”