HASTINGS, N.Y. – What started 13 years ago as a homework club in the basement of a Hastings home has grown into an international charity that has helped countless families.
"We've helped thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands – between probably about 5,000 to 6,000 families if not more over the years," said Pam Koner, the founder and executive director of Family-to-Family. "It feels like there's a radiation effect that's pretty powerful."
Family-to-Family supports those in need in by giving the basic necessities – it provides more than 12,000 meals per month to more than 1,800 families in 12 states across the country. But the group goes beyond that, offering things to families to help them live their lives as normally as possible.
Koner's organization encourages kids to help other children with its Birthday Box program. Children can decorate and fill shoe boxes with everything needed for a small birthday party.
"It's really amazing and what's amazing is you get kids to do it," Koner said. "The kids get it because it's their most special day and the idea that kids can't have that is meaningful to them."
Family-to-Family also has several literacy programs designed to get books into the hands of impoverished children. Local high school students have held drives to collect backpacks filled with school supplies, which are then distributed to those who need them.
"We are the conduit between those with more and those with less," Koner said.
There's the Victory Garden program, where impoverished families are given chickens for eggs and everything they need to grow their own vegetables, and the Closet for Good, where families can swap their own gently used clothing. And, of course, monetary donations are always accepted.
Recently, Koner was contacted by a woman in Jacksonville, Fla. who needed help paying for day care for her child. While that isn't something Family-to-Family does, Koner found a way to make it happen.
"I touched a family's life. That's what moved me today," Koner said. "I said wow, that's what I get to do, I get to be like a fairy godmother."
For more information on Family-to-Family or to find out how you can get involved visit the organization's website.
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