Buffalo has not tired of coming through.
As of Wednesday, the News Neediest Fund had collected a total of $146,322.15. That’s nearly $14,000 more than the drive had collected at this time last year. There’s still time to donate to the fund, but at this time gifts of money, rather than toys, are what is needed. Information on how to donate is at the bottom of this plea.
The fund, which is in its 35th season, was established to help provide for families at risk of having no presents to open or no holiday dinner to savor. It’s among the times – and there are many of them each year – when Western New Yorkers demonstrate the generosity for which they are known.
Not for nothing is this town called the City of Good Neighbors.
As of last week, collection of toys for this year has ended. Any that are dropped off now will be held until next year’s drive, so if you’ve got them and still want to donate, feel free. They will not go to waste.
But cash is still needed and gratefully accepted. Gifts of money will help purchase more of the special meals that help to make the day memorable.
Even with the economy on the upswing, the need continues to be great here, in one of the nation’s poorest cities. “The renaissance is very evident, but not everybody is being lifted the same way,” Michael Weiner, president and CEO of United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, said when this year’s drive began.
“It becomes even more disproportionate when you think about people of color, when you think about refugees and immigrants, when you think about women.”
Many Western New Yorkers remain unemployed, even as the economy improves. For those people, the priorities of daily living are different. But even among working people, the money for a celebration can be nonexistent. Pay for the heat or buy a turkey? Medical care for the kids or a holiday roast? Gasoline for the commute to work costs the same for everyone.
But, now, it’s nearly Christmas and, in Buffalo, people seem to take seriously the aphorism that it is better to give than to receive. When there’s a need here, we have a habit of looking out for one another. It’s automatic and it’s beautiful.
Think of the community effort that helped a 90-year-old World War II veteran regain the home he lost to foreclosure. A Williamsville man launched the GoFundMe account that attracted more than double the $50,000 that was needed to put Johnnie Hodges Sr. back into his home on Humboldt Avenue last year.
It was a glowing example of the routine thoughtfulness that characterizes this special place on what can be a cold and unforgiving planet. There are big hearts in this city and the region around it.
Money raised in the News Neediest drive allows the Food Bank of Western New York to secure more than 200,000 pounds of holiday food items that are distributed to 43 agencies, according to the Food Bank’s Justin Guerin.
The News Neediest Fund is part of the Western New York Holiday Partnership, a collaboration of more than two dozen toy distribution programs in Erie and Niagara counties. The Holiday Partnership cross-references applications to ensure families are not served by more than one agency. The deadline to apply for help through the News Neediest Fund has passed.
If you’ve already given, thank you. If you can give more, bless you. If you haven’t given yet, time remains to help make a difference this holiday season for the men, women and children in Western New York who will benefit from it.
Cash donations may be made online at buffalonews.com/newsneediest or by mail to The News Neediest Fund, P.O. Box 2667, Buffalo, N.Y., 14240-9873.