'Westchester Christmas' celebrates 30 years of packing, gifting items to residents
Residents throughout Westchester County gathered at St. Mary's School in Katonah Monday morning to honor the season of giving and create a bit of Christmas magic.
It’s all part of "Westchester Christmas’" 30th annual year of delivering presents and dinners to more than 250 residents.
"We work with the Northern Westchester Community Center, and we receive recipients who are in need or who can't get out," said Lauren Torre, vice president of Westchester Christmas' board of directors. "We have a lot of people who don't have transportation. We have some people who are just back from surgery. We have people who are senior citizens who it's difficult for them to get around."
Designated as the "head elf," Torre said each recipient's bag is personalized based on their requests.
"We have bikes, we have microwaves, we have Barbie Dream Houses, whatever it is that our recipients have wished for," she says. "So, if somebody wants a basketball, we get a basketball. [If] somebody wants a "Frozen" puzzle, we get them "Frozen" puzzle."
In addition to what each person receives in their festive red bag, they will also be gifted a free coat from the Knights of Columbus and a hot meal from Village Social in Mount Kisco.
"We hope that we can give them full stomachs and full hearts," Torre says.
The annual event is a community-wide effort that includes volunteers from St. Mary's, as well as residents from different backgrounds and cultures.
"It is a nondenominational effort, and we have every religion, every race, every age, which is really amazing," she said.
The Procells were one of those families, who spent their fifth Christmas fulfilling a family's wish.
"It's like you get to feel this greater sense of Christmas spirit, you know, when you go to someone's house and see how grateful they are," said Margeaux Procell. "This for us is a really meaningful way [of giving back]. We can do it as a family."
It was meaningful for the recipients, too, who beamed with joy at the generosity of the community.
"The response is always so emotional from both sides," said Torre. "We have people who are not expecting the initial phone call that they're receiving a Christmas dinner and Christmas gifts. So, it's overwhelming for them that there are people who they don't know [that] care about their well-being on Christmas."