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A SPIRIT OF HOLIDAY SHARING
FOR 23RD YEAR, CHARITY AT CHRISTMASTIME BEGINS WITH THE YOUNG AS NEWS NEEDIEST FUND WARMS HEARTS ACROSS WNY

Four-year-old Joshua Kowalski, sitting on the floor of The Buffalo News lobby Tuesday, knew why he and his schoolmates were there: to put toys under the Christmas tree for boys and girls who otherwise wouldn't get them.

But he took some time in pondering the next question: Why are there some parents who can't buy the presents?

"If they can't buy anything," he said, "that means they don't have any money."

That, in essence, was the whole point Tuesday as The News and the United Way kicked off the 23rd annual News Neediest Fund, one of the largest holiday charity programs in Western New York.

Josh and seven friends from his HSBC Family Center preschool class placed toys under the tree to signify the beginning of this year's fund.

Last year, the fund helped more than 12,000 families with more than $700,000 in food, toys and other essentials.

"We're thrilled to be in a relationship with the United Way to deliver these services to the community," said Warren T. Colville, president of The News.

Arlene F. Kaukus, president of the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, cited the pressing needs the community faces this holiday season.

"The stresses on families of all income levels are so real," she said. "We see families who, on the appearance of it, have a lot. Even those families are showing up in agencies, with real needs."

After placing the presents, Josh and his buddies munched on cookies.

Which did he like better, the presents or the cookies?

"Both," he replied. "These (cookies) taste good, and I liked putting these (presents) under the tree for some kids who don't have toys."

Lesson learned, at the beginning of another holiday season.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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