MONTICELLO, NY — Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless is defined by its service to the community all year round, but especially during the holiday season. Director Kathy Kreiter said …
MONTICELLO, NY — Sullivan County Federation for the Homeless is defined by its service to the community all year round, but especially during the holiday season. Director Kathy Kreiter said they have a Christmas Eve dinner with about 250 people and two or three seatings, depending on the demand. “I have a feeling it’s going to be little heavier this year,” she said.
On a trip to the federation building in November, a visitor could see boxes stuffed with brightly wrapped packages awaiting the arrival of Christmas Eve. “Any child that’s present can go up and get a toy from Santa and get a picture. A lot of people have cameras in their phones, but nobody has pictures in their hands, so we do Polaroids. We have a couple of young folks who dress up like elves and they’ll walk the kids up onto the stage and they help Santa choose a toy based on age and gender. “[For older kids,] we do keep a couple of gift cards or a football, so that they can get something too.”
That also have an “adopt-a-kid” program where churches and other organizations buy presents for a specific child in the community, and those presents go under the tree in the child’s home.
But the federation is not just active at Christmas—it serves the community year-round. As the only full-time soup kitchen in Sullivan County, the organization serves breakfast, lunch and take-out dinners five days a week.
“If you just want to eat here, you just sign your name and sit down and eat,” said Kreiter “But if you’d like to take a dinner home, or if you’d like to get something more than an emergency bag of food, you come in with ID for your family, and something that shows where you live. We give you a card that says how many meals you can take home. So we really do more meals that we see people here.”
On overage, the federation serves about 125 meals a day. “At the end of the month, it’s always heavier. People living on fixed incomes are starting to run short. This time of the year, it is tough. People are spending more money on heating their homes, and if they had any summer employment, now it’s dried up.”
Funding for the federation comes mostly from private donations and fundraising. The organization has a small, very specific grant from the state that helps families with and aides for HIV patients to pay for housing expenses.
The federation gets “food grants” from the Regional Food Bank of the Northeast, a non-profit. But Krieter said, “Most of our funding is through private donation and fundraising. If it weren’t for the community, there certainly would not be a federation, no doubt about it.”
“We are a volunteer-driven organization. We have four part-time employees including myself, [and] everything else is run by volunteers,” Kreiter said. “My salary is based on 28 hours a week, which I’ve never put in since I’ve worked here,” meaning she always works far more than that.
In years past, the federation did get a big grant from the state in the range of $100,000 to $105,000 a year. Kreiter said, “They had more employees that were full-time. It paid for a lot. It was very competitive, and they had it for two or three cycles of five years each. And when they went out for it in 2011, they didn’t get it. They almost closed. Aileen Gunter went out and got a donation for them to keep the doors open. They laid off a lot of folks, and I came in right after that.”
The federation welcomes all kinds of donations including socks and gloves, but especially monetary donations. “We can have all the food in the world, but if I can’t pay the cook and keep the lights on, it doesn’t really matter. And traditionally the community has really stepped up,” she said.