SALAMANCA — The Pay It Forward group will be out distributing food boxes and gifts to local families in need on Dec. 21, beginning at noon. The operation will take place from this year’s headquarters at 73 Broad St.
The group will be assisted by city of Salamanca police officers and firefighters, Little Valley and Cattaraugus volunteer fire departments, as well as two Santas, a Mrs. Claus and several elves.
Organizers Tim Jackson and Tina Stanczykowski, both of Salamanca, are trying to make as many people as possible aware of what Pay It Forward is and what they do. They are urging community members to participate in the program by helping other area residents who are less fortunate and in need of a helping hand.
Jackson said Pay It Forward is a small group of local people and businesses that have taken it upon themselves to give clothing, food and toys to local families that are down on their luck for various reasons and cannot make ends meet, especially during the holiday season.
“People must call and let us know about their friends and neighbors in need,” he said. “We need to get the word out to everyone who will listen because there are so many people out there that are not being helped. The recipients do not have to be people with kids. They can also be shut-ins, elderly individuals or anyone in the community who is having a hard time this time of year.”
Jackson said many businesses in the city and in the nearby communities will have a “Tree of Hope” Christmas tree in their store or office decorated with tags in the shapes of little girls and boys. The tags will have the name of a child and their age on it. On the back will be the child’s size and some suggestions for gifts.
Participants can choose a tag, or two, and buy something for that child. Jackson said the unwrapped gift with the tag attached needs to be returned to the store where it was originally picked it up by Dec. 12. The gifts will be collected and distributed by Santa and his helpers the week before Christmas.
People should look for the Tree of Hope at the following sponsor businesses and organizations: The Salamanca Press, WGWE, Hairmaxx, Community Bank, Salamanca City Hall, Salamanca Police Department, Salamanca Fire Department, Little Valley and Cattaraugus fire departments, Save-A-Lot, Central Lanes, Sanders Parkview, Mongillo Jewelers, Meyers Steakhouse, Department of Public Works, Seneca Allegany Casino Income Auditing Department, Thrifty Mission, The Bear Brick, Hughes Hotel, Rite Aid, John Sixt Lumber, Edna’s Grab & Go, Vail Hardware, Dollar General in Little Valley, Salamanca Public Library, Urban Auto Center, Champion Rent to Own, Worth W. Smith Hardware, Salamanca Redemption Center and community members.
Jackson said volunteers are needed to wrap presents and load food boxes that will be assembled at 73 Broad St. The firemen and police officers will pick the boxes up and transport them with Santa, Mrs. Santa and the elves assisting.
According to Jackson, last year the group delivered food to approximately 70 families and gifts to about 250 children from Salamanca and surrounding areas including Little Valley, Cattaraugus, Great Valley and Kill Buck.
Because of an incident in 1973 when Jackson was a Salamanca police officer, he is able to contribute to the program in a big way. That was the year he jumped into the Allegany River and saved the life of Marge Fisher. According to Jackson, Fisher was dead when he pulled her from the river and revived her. He said she never forgot how he saved her and sent him a thank you card every year. She also sent him a check for $25 or $50 for the Pay It Forward program.
“Marge passed away Feb. 6 of this year at 101 years old. When she passed, she left me $10,000 which I put into a Trust Fund I call the ‘Marge Fisher Memorial Fund,’” he said. “Every year, I take $500 out of that and I apply it to the Pay It Forward program because I know that’s what she would have wanted.”
In her will, Fisher also left Jackson all the furniture in her house, so now his garage is full of furniture, appliances and other household items that he’s been trying to slowly give away.
Jackson said almost everyone knows of a family that’s down on their luck for various reasons, and who knows these families better than the people in their own community. He asks the community to Pay It Forward to help friends, neighbors and coworkers all year long.
The Pay It Forward motto says it all, “We can help. We are you.” Jackson said the campaign has grown bigger each year and it’s all because of the generosity of the people of Salamanca.
If anyone knows of somebody who needs an extra hand, call the Pay It Forward group at 945-2541. All information received will be kept confidential.
Volunteers for the Pay It Forward program will be conducting a food drive at Sander’s Parkview on Friday, Dec. 6 through Sunday, Dec. 8 from 9 a.m. until closing. Pamphlets will be handed out at the door with food item suggestions that will be clearly marked on the shelves with a sign, “Pay It Forward Christmas Dinner.” There will be shopping carts marked “Pay It Forward Food Drive” at the front of the store, right after checkout.
(Contact reporter Deb Everts at firstname.lastname@example.org.)