WILKES-BARRE — Mike Cianciotta, director of the St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen, put it in perspective.
“It’s been really busy,” he said. “Constant every day — steady.”
More than 300 people come to the kitchen daily, Cianciotta said. They depend on the kitchen for food, whether it be the hot prepared meals for lunch and dinner, or the staples they can get at the kitchen’s food pantry.
“So far, we have been able to keep up with donations to meet the demand,” Cianciotta said. “And our volunteers are loyal.”
That’s why Cianciotta said the annual Boscov’s Christmas in July project is so critical to the kitchen and other local food pantries.
The Christmas in July project, the seventh sponsored by Boscov’s, kicked off this week at the Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Pottsville and Hazleton stores. Customers can donate food or money. The project 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.
“This project, along with the corporate help we receive, is critical to our operation,” Cianciotta said.
The pantries/kitchens are in desperate need of canned tuna, fruit, canned vegetables, boxes of cereal and all non-perishable foods. Donations of food can be dropped into the barrel next to the tree at the Boscov’s courtesy desk in the fourth floor.
In Wilkes-Barre, Boscov’s has a Christmas tree on the fourth floor near the courtesy desk where customers can purchase a pin-up for $1 to place on the tree. Proceeds will go to Catholic Social Services to buy items such as socks, underwear and T-shirts for the homeless and others in need.
Customers can also select an angel from the Christmas in July tree. Each angel has a gift for the customer to purchase and drop off at Boscov’s courtesy desk.
Irene Kelly, Boscov’s regional manager for public relations, said the Christmas in July program started seven years ago when Monsignor Joseph Kelly spoke to the Boscov’s store manager in Scranton, Steve Vituszynski, to see if there was something they could do together to raise funds for soup kitchens.
“Steve called me and I went to the meeting and after listening to Monsignor Kelly, I said I think we need to do a Christmas in July with a food drive and angel tree and pin-up sales,” Kelly said. “It’s been a wonderful experience for Boscov’s just to see how supportive our communities are.”
Last year, Kelly said the project received more than 40,000 pounds of food and over $4,000 in monetary gifts.
Monsignor Kelly said one in five children in Northeastern Pennsylvania is facing hunger. He said with kids out of school for the summer, the need for food is vital.
“The community always responds when they understand the need,” Kelly said. “During this summer, no one should go hungry.”
The Times Leader Media Group is a media partner for the project.
“The Times Leader is truly proud to be associated with the Christmas in July program,” said publisher Mike Murray. “This is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to be able to give back to those less fortunate at a time when so many can use some help.”
Kerry Miscavage, advertising director, added: “Boscov’s has been a longtime partner of the Times Leader, so when it comes to these special initiatives, we make sure to support them and get the word out to as many people as possible.”
Steve Daniloff, general manager at WBRE/WYOU, said the television station is also proud to help.
“We have been with this program since its inception seven years ago,” Daniloff said. “We know how important this is to the community and we are happy to be able to help.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.