By DEBORAH A. MILES
Year after year, the generosity of PEF members increases during the holiday
season. Across the state, members take the time from their personal lives to
shop and donate items to annual toy and food drives and bring some happiness
to children and those in need.
In PEF Region 8, the tradition of gathering toys, food baskets and wrapping
everything has become an annual event some members consider a part of their
Bob Harms is one of those volunteers. The program was begun in 1990 by
parole officer Sue Jeffords. For the past 15 years, Harms has looked forward
to that Saturday morning just before Christmas when the wrapping paper and
Scotch tape are shared in the gesture of good will.
“This is a worthwhile thing to do, to help families,” Harms said. “I’ve been
volunteering for 17 years and it’s something I want to do. Some of the faces
change and some people are in different political camps. But that’s not why
we are here. We gather in the spirit of harmony, and you feel great knowing
you are helping people. It’s a cool thing.”
During the years, Harms has noticed people are spending more on donated
gifts, up to $30 or $40 for a toy. He’s also noticed there is still the
usual array of Raggedy Ann dolls, Tonka trucks and teddy bears, but
affordable technology items are becoming popular gifts as well.
“The generosity of people amazes me,” Harms said.
Region 8 Coordinator Tom Comanzo said the program is something to be proud
The toys are donated to Toys for Tots, St. Margaret’s Children Center in
Albany, and to families of deserving parolees.
“The program is unique as it recognizes that children of parolees are
special. They are not responsible for the actions of a parent. Receiving
something extra for the holidays, or for some it may be the only gift, helps
them realize there is good in the world and people care. It’s a very
positive experience for all involved,” Comanzo said.
In PEF Region 8, Comanzo said members also staffed a booth at Crossgates
Mall in Albany where shoppers could donate to the Regional Food Bank.
Downstate members got into the spirit of giving by hosting a second annual
holiday party. They brought an unwrapped gift, with a minimum value of $20,
to the PEF office for their admission, or paid that amount at the door.
PEF Region 10 Coordinator Vernetta Chesimard said the project was a joint
effort with the NYC Central Labor Council and the U.S. Marines.
Back to THE COMMUNICATOR home