WILKES-BARRE – Community leaders gathered Wednesday morning in Boscov’s department store to discuss opportunities to benefit Northeastern Pennsylvania by raising not only money, but awareness of the needs of area residents.
Irene Kelly, public relations director of Boscov’s Wilkes-Barre store, is coordinating the store’s sixth annual Christmas in July and other events, which will benefit local nonprofits.
The Christmas in July effort will run the entire month of July and raise money for food and clothing for people in need, especially members of the local homeless population. It is a cooperative effort that includes Catholic Social Services of Lackawanna and Luzerne counties and the Commission on Economic Opportunity.
A Christmas tree stood in the corner of the room as a reminder of the fundraising efforts as Kelly; Kim Gormley, manager of Boscov’s Hazleton store; Monsignor Joseph Kelly, director of St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen in Scranton; and members of the media took time to discuss how they can collectively benefit the needy.
Monsignor Kelly said that during the summer time food pantries often find themselves with empty shelves.
The key, Gormley said, is for area residents to gain an understanding of those in needs.
“People coming to food pantries are often veterans, people who have recently lost their jobs or older people trying to make it,” she said.
The Christmas in July event will include a Christmas tree on the fourth level of the store, an opportunity to donate a dollar at the register and a food collection drive.
A dollar donation will include a pin-up purchase, making note of the donation. Proceeds will go to Catholic Social Services to buy items such as socks, underwear and T-shirts.
The Christmas tree will provide opportunity for shoppers to purchase an ornament and then purchase an item requested on the ornament for someone in need.
Gormley encouraged those donating food to do so with complete meals in mind, avoiding expired items and including proteins, such as canned tuna fish and peanut butter.
Monsignor Kelly said the outcomes of such events are hard to measure.
“Someone might see an announcement about Christmas in July and begin to think about their own local food pantry,” he said. “So this particular event can benefit the community in a variety of ways.”
Gormley said she is often overwhelmed by people’s willingness to help.
“We had one gentleman last year, just pulling off of (Interstate) 81 to do a bit of shopping,” she said. “And when he realized that we were doing a food drive, he went to a local supermarket and purchased two bags of food. He wasn’t even from our area.”
Irene Kelly is convinced that local residents, if they understand the nature of the need, are more than willing to donate time, money and energy to helping others.
As July 1 approaches, she hopes that Boscov’s in Northeastern Pennsylvania and its customers can bring a little Christmas and a bit of relief to those in need in our area.