Needy people in this rural town can take solace in the fact that they have a couple hundred neighbors pulling for them.
For 30 years, the Galway Community Basket has given families, couples and singles a basket of food for the holidays as well as clothing and toys for children. The project includes more than 200 volunteers every year and not a paid staffer in sight.
The town’s churches, fire departments, ambulance corps, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, businesses and community service groups band together for the cause each year.
“It’s a good project,” said Connie Wood, a longtime volunteer in a group that has no named leader. “The attempt is to help families who for one reason or another hit hard times.”
This year, volunteers filled 109 baskets for delivery on Christmas Eve in an organized effort that gives every person a specific job and dictates which community group donates what.
This year’s needy residents included 12 single people, 12 couples and 85 families with children. Each child gets at least one article of clothing, plus mittens or gloves and a hat, a book and one “fun” item, Wood said.
It seems everyone in town has a hand in the project.
“It’s really heartwarming to see all these groups of people come together,” said Erin Loiacono, who coordinates the packing of the food. “It’s really quite beautiful.”
Though Galway lacks a “destination downtown,” it has an active community where many people join groups to socialize and do community service, she said.
Loiacono, 34, said she has been involved in the project off and on since she was in 4-H starting in about third grade. She graduated from Galway schools in 1995 and now lives in Ballston.
“A lot of my friends’ parents, they were always involved in different groups,” she said. “You find out who’s involved in a group, and it’s family names of kids who I went to high school with.” Her brother, Silas Schrader, 32, also is heading up part of the food distribution.
On Saturday, about 50 people wrapped children’s gifts to put in the baskets and another 50 put food in the baskets before 112 people paired up in 56 cars to deliver baskets throughout the territory, which includes the Galway school district plus the entire town of Providence.
The volunteers formed a “chain gang” to load boxes into the drivers’ vehicles.
“They hand the boxes from one person to the next,” Wood noted.
Before the big day, many groups donate items to fill the baskets. The school gets involved, with children bringing in food to the Giving Tree at Joseph Henry Elementary School.
“There is kind of a race between classes to see who can collect the most,” Wood said. Teachers donate money they pay to dress down.
Some of the donors included Stewart’s Shops, which gives gift certificates for milk and ice cream; the Lions Club, which provides labor; the Lionesses, who buy gifts and bake cookies for volunteer snacks on Christmas Eve; the Preservation Society, which this year donated cleaning and hygiene products; the Galway Women’s Club, which contributes clothing; and the Galway Teachers Association, which gives children’s books.
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