Community members embrace holiday spirit

By Christine Simek

Many folks in Philipstown spend December preparing their homes and hearths for the holidays by hanging lights, baking gingerbread and challah bread, and wrapping gifts for friends and family members. For some local residents, the holidays wouldn’t be complete without giving back to others in our community, too.

There are several organizations in and around Philipstown that provide opportunities for community members to volunteer, donate and participate in bringing the joy of the season to neighbors who might need a little bit of assistance making merry this year.

Ringing in the holidays

Christine Locaparra at her post in front of Foodtown in Cold SpringPhoto by C. Simek
Christine Locaparra at her post in front of Foodtown in Cold Spring
Photo by C. Simek

The tinkling of Salvation Army bells is a familiar and ubiquitous sound of Christmas and one that greets visitors to Foodtown in Cold Spring throughout the month of December. Christine Locaparra and her son Rocco, residents of Garrison, can be found receiving and thanking shoppers for monetary donations from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. every Monday through Saturday throughout the holiday season. Contributions that are tossed into the distinctive red-and-white tin bucket help support lunch and dinner programs at the Corps’ Community Center in Beacon.

This is the sixth year that Locaparra has been an ambassador for the Salvation Army, a group she got involved in because of her faith and her desire to be of service to the local community. Locaparra said that she is Roman Catholic but enjoys working with the Salvation Army, because they are “very charitable and do a lot of good work.”

Come rain or shine, snow or early darkness, Locaparra and her son take turns minding the bell and the bucket with a smile (while wearing many layers of clothing). They enjoy connecting with their neighbors and friends, meeting new people and knowing that they are doing some good. Larger monetary donations to the Salvation Army can be made on their website,; to donate or volunteer locally, contact Doris Gonzales at the Beacon Corps, 845-831-1253.

Giving at Haldane

The PTA at Haldane School is involved in two giving drives this year. The Giving Tree Committee has partnered with the Cold Spring Lions Club to collect and distribute gifts for underprivileged children and teenagers in Philipstown. Collection bins are located in the elementary and middle school lobbies, where donors can leave wrapped presents for children aged 5-17 years. The PTA committee coordinates with Betty Budney and Lions Club for distribution a few days before Christmas; the Lions Club donates baskets of food and clothing to the families as well.

Luz Bailey, chairwoman of the Giving Tree, said that last year 45 gifts were collected and distributed to Philipstown children. “It is a special event for both the community and the school,” she said. “Gifts, no matter what they are or how big or small make the children so happy, and it just feels so good to give something back.” Giving Tree donations will be accepted through Dec. 21. For more information or to give a gift, visit or email Luz Bailey at [email protected].

The Haldane PTA and Haldane music department have partnered with the First Presbyterian Church’s food pantry this year to collect food items for distribution at the Philipstown Food Pantry’s weekly Saturday morning shop. Noreen Fee, treasurer of the PTA, said that that the parent-teacher organization wanted to find a way to get the kids involved in some kind of good will activity during the holiday season, and music teachers Debbie Contini and Danielle Cornacchio “suggested arranging a food drive.”

Noreen Fee, treasurer of the PTA, stands with food donations collected at the elementary school winter concert at csimek
Noreen Fee, treasurer of the PTA, stands with food donations collected at the elementary school winter concert at Haldane.
photo csimek

Contini said that she was thrilled that the music department could be involved in such an endeavor and that this kind of event made sense, because so many [Haldane] parents come through the doors of the school for events during the month. “This school district and this community are constantly doing things to give back and to support each other. The kids see that and learn that it feels just as good to give as it does to get,” Contini said.

Brent Harrington, principal of Haldane Elementary and Middle Schools, agreed. “As we continue to teach our students important pro-social behaviors, through both formal and informal curricular experiences, there is no greater skill than teaching students the importance of empathy. With the joy of the holiday season approaching, such opportunities for our students to recognize and contribute to those in need is of critical importance. The leadership of our PTA and Lion’s Clubs to ensure that our students recognize those who are less fortunate and provide an opportunity help those in need through gift giving is commendable. Undoubtedly, it speaks to the larger values of our school community and greater Philipstown.”

Donation boxes are available at each holiday concert, and families can bring canned and nonperishable food items. The final concert is Haldane Middle School’s winter concert, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 17. To volunteer or donate to the Philipstown Food Pantry directly, call 845-265-3220 or email [email protected].

Cold weather means coats

This is the fourth year that Abbie Carey, an agent at Houlihan Lawrence Realty, has coordinated a coat drive hosted by the agency. Inspired several years ago when she cleaned out a closet in her own home and realized that she and her kids had several warm jackets that weren’t being worn, she decided to start a collection. Carey says that the Houlihan Lawrence office is conveniently located and open seven days a week, which makes dropoffs easy for community members.

Donations to the coat drive at Houlihan Lawrence RealtyPhoto by C. Simek
Donations to the coat drive at Houlihan Lawrence Realty
Photo by C. Simek

Coats are collected throughout the winter and distributed through the Philipstown Food Pantry. Carey has been touched by the community’s reception of the program, especially by people who stop by and “donate brand new coats purchased for the sole purpose of giving them away.”

Reverend Leslie Mott of the First Presbyterian Church of Philipstown is grateful for the various contributions, including of warm clothing, that the Philipstown community is making to her various outreach projects. “Our clients deserve the best,” she said. “Warm adult coats with hoods are especially needed” for the church’s twice annual Midnight Run, a night that volunteers spend in New York City distributing food and clothing items to the homeless. Clean coats, in good condition, can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Houlihan Lawrence office, 60 Main St., in Cold Spring.

Toys for Putnam County

The Putnam Community Action Program (CAP) is holding its annual toy drive this month. As in the past, Putnam County Sheriff’s Office cadets are assisting with the collection and distribution of donated toys and gifts for needy children in Putnam County. Last year, over 2,000 toys and gifts were distributed to about 800 children. The program is seeking new, unwrapped toys for children aged 0-18 years.

Donors can drop off items at the sheriff’s office headquarters, located on Fair Street in Carmel; at the Town of Kent Police Department, located on Route 52 in Kent; at the CAP headquarters, located at 121 Main St. in Brewster; or at any of the number of banks and businesses participating in the Toys-for-Tots Program sponsored by the Marine Corps League. Donations should be dropped off as soon as possible to allow delivery to children in time for the holidays.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.