While Stacey Moore of Moore & More Printing ate her dinner in front of her computer screen and oversaw a printing job, we talked about Adopt-A-Family, a charity that she has run for almost 25 years. You know the saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person”? That’s Stacey.
Is Moore & More Printing on Dutchess Avenue in Millerton, NY, also the home of Adopt-A -Family?
I moved into this space in a former shirt/bedspread/parachute factory when I opened my own business in Millerton over 27 years ago. Initially our holiday activities focused on Astor Head Start, a pre-school for low-income families, where my good friend Mariley Najdek was the director. She would provide a ham or turkey for each family and a winter coat for every child at Christmas – just a little something extra. One year she provided the children with a Ragamuffin – a stuffed animal created by Crispina French from recycled wool from her shop that is now Leslie Flood Interiors.
Because family members had been students at Astor, I grew to know how important that program was and reached out to Mariley and asked how I could help. From there, not only did one of my greatest friendships start, but also the Adopt-A-Family program. Over the next couple of years it expanded to other Millerton families, then families in Pine Plains when they didn’t have the manpower to continue their holiday program, and then, years later, to Amenia, when Lee McEnroe could no longer handle it. We then decided to include families that lived within the Pine Plains and Webutuck School systems. That area covers towns from Wassaic into Amenia, Millerton, Pine Plains, Stanfordville, and some outlying towns like Ancram, Elizaville, and Milan.
What do families receive?
Our primary goal was to provide new warm winter clothing for those children in need with new toys as a bonus. For many, many years we had Saperstein’s for our one-stop-shopping for the children’s clothing. Initially we would give Lewis and his ladies our slips with the children’s sizes and needs and the store would pick them out, bag them, and bring them to the shop. We used places like the Millerton Fire House as a distribution point, and then the Library Annex to stockpile our toys. Over a couple of days or evenings a group of women would scramble around the tables and bag three new toys per child and combine them with the clothes and then the parents would come and pick it all up. The number of children in need has grown too high (over 300) for a handful of volunteers to pull it all off in such a short time.
Saperstein’s, sadly, is now gone and last year we did our best to get as many children as possible adopted so their clothing might be purchased by the adopter donors. If they weren’t, the parents were given gift cards for each child. They could choose between Millerton Market in Millerton, Freshtown, Dollar General, Tractor Supply or Label Shopper in Amenia. They would then be given a voucher to come to the Annex and pick out three toys per child. Our hopes are that the vouchers to some of those stores would allow them to get clothing, or at the grocery stores buy food, and then use their own money to get clothing if they needed it.
How do you select the recipients?
We take care of all needy children through 13 years of age. Over the years we’ve developed a pretty good network of teachers, social workers, churches, and even school bus drivers who identify families in need. In the past several years we have had about 300 kids, 120 families per year that have benefited from the program. Some people know to come to our print shop directly and sign up if they would like to receive extra help during the holidays. We do our best to confirm that the family is indeed in need. All monies raised for the clothing and gift cards are generously donated by local businesses and individuals and we make sure that contributions aren’t misspent. Our goal is also to spend all the dollars raised in the communities that support us.
What kind of toys do you have?
We do not have electronics – no cell phones, video games, or iPads. And no dogs or cats. We want to encourage family engagement and social connections – board games, puzzles, dolls, toy trucks, educational games, sports equipment, and craft projects – toys that spark the brain or get kids outside playing. All of these toys are new and parents wrap them up. We try not to spend too much of our money on toys. They always seem to come pouring in as donations.
How do you finance all this generosity?
It’s spontaneous generosity. We don’t send out letters asking for money. For many years we have held an annual golf tournament at Under Mountain Golf Course with sponsorships from many local businesses. Some of the towns we help give what money they can to support us. There are a handful of local organizations that have made some very generous donations year after year.
Starting in late October or early November the phone starts ringing at Moore & More and people ask what can they do … buy toys, send a check, or adopt a child. The list of donors is too large to mention and not forget someone – everything is anonymous. Our contributors are individuals, organizations, schools, and churches – anybody locally (even across the border in Connecticut) that hears about us. The best is when past recipients become donors. Many years ago we had twin boys bring their savings of rolled coins to Astor to help some other children in need. Literally we have people in pick-up trucks loaded with toys unloading at the Annex. We also receive extra gifts from local businesses like Salisbury Bank, and The Bank of Millbrook.
Any money we receive is deposited with the Berkshire Taconic Foundation and dispersed by them for our purchases.
There have been families who have everything they need and have chosen to adopt a family or a couple of kids instead of exchanging gifts amongst themselves. A group of horse enthusiasts, individuals, and businesses brought together by Louise Meryman have come together for over ten years to meet the personal requests of 45 families.
Those who adopt a family or child are only given a family number, the ages of the children, and what the children have requested and shop for that family. About half of our 120 families have their wish list filled by an anonymous benefactor. If they wish the adopted family can write a thank you note and we will deliver it, but neither giver nor receiver knows the identity of the other. The expense to the donor can be a couple hundred dollars per child depending on their needs. But there are many ways to help that don’t have to be that expensive. It can be a single toy or a donation of $10. It all adds up and makes it possible. If there is a toy that made you happy when you were a child then it might make a child happy today.
How do people know about this amazing charity with no overhead?
People just show up because they know. It’s basically word-of-mouth. The Millerton News is great about doing weekly updates before Christmas about items that we need and NASCAR Dave and Marshall Miles always do blasts on Robin Hood Radio. I hope once this article is circulated, the support will increase even more.
Is there anything special that you already know about your needs this year?
You never know. Last year we ran out of farm toys and one of our donors arrived with a Jeep full of stuffed farm animals from Tractor Supply (see photo on previous page). Arts and crafts are always needed and LEGOS continue to be a demand. We also encourage reading, so any books are welcome. Oblong Junior and Dick Hermans have supported this program from the beginning. They have either discounted or completely donated toys, books, and music over the years. If they are aware that toys are being purchased for us the cost is discounted at purchase.
Who does all of this? Where does it happen?
From the beginning, all of the organization has been done by the women who have worked for me, Karen, Vicki, and Debbie while still keeping the printing shop operating. And then there is our North Pole, currently the Library Annex. In the beginning the ladies from Astor Head Start would help pick out toys after hours with many vother olunteers. The chief elves today are Carol, Pam, Michelle, Monika, and Andy and a handful of friends. The Reynolds family of Millerton has donated their tables and time to set up at the Annex for many years. The Jenks and Eckler families helped to pack and unpack all the toys and books. We have about three weeks to pull everything together at the busiest time of the year. We’re so lucky to have the Annex space. We quickly outgrew the space here at the shop, and then the space at the firehouse, and when we got too big for that, the Annex took us in for the holidays.
The Annex space has tables full of dolls and trucks, personal care products, books, coloring books, and all sorts of toys for both boys and girls. Every year two local businessmen pull up with a truck loaded with sports equipment. There are groups that have had fundraisers on our behalf, and a group of women knit mittens and hats all year long for us to give away. Maplebrook School raises money, buys toys, and contributes fleece blankets. Everyone lines up to help. Some just appear in our office with a donation and hand it over. They don’t want a receipt or recognition for their help. They just say, “It’s for the kids,” and tear up when we reach out to give them a hug. Every year a woman from Poughkeepsie shows up with a car full of toys that she and her husband have been buying all year, as well as a couple from Stanfordville. The private schools across the border in Connecticut either adopt a family or drop off toys, hats, and money.
The Millerton Post Office lets us know there are Dear Santa letters and helps us coordinate with a dear friend in Florida who writes Santa’s responses. Berkshire Taconic is also a very big help. They are the caretakers of all the checks and cash we receive. They disperse funds as needed and write tax-donation letters for monies deposited.
How does the North Pole at the Annex work?
Every cash donation is spent within our community – either for gift cards or toys. We don’t shop online or buy outside of our community. Everything goes back into our towns. The first week of December we open the North Pole doors at the Annex and continue to restock as needed until Christmas. We invite four or five families at a time to shop. With 300 kids we need at least 1,000 toys. When something is really popular we get the word out that we need dolls, or LEGOS and they just arrive. You can always call Moore & More and ask what we need. It changes every year. Sometimes we receive wonderful donations and have to figure out who might like them. We call families and say, “We happen to have a small bike. Would you like it?” Every year two volunteers from the American Legion get dressed up as Santa Claus and personally deliver gifts to a few really needy kids. I can’t tell you how great it makes everyone feel. Adopt-A-Family has built a reputation of not misusing the generosity of our community. We try our hardest. Always somehow it all works out.
Do you have checks and balances to prevent fraudulent behavior?
Basically we trust those that ask and thank those who give. Families with tight budgets sometimes have to choose between rent and toys for Christmas. They make tough decisions to get by. Toys are a luxury not a necessity. We want to give families the opportunity to have a Christmas. We’ve never fallen short. Our motto has always been, but for the grace of God it could be anyone of us. Every child should wake up with some joy on Christmas morning.
Does Adopt-A-Family do anything other than Christmas?
With excess funds we have sent some kids to summer camp. We purchased backpacks and school supplies for Astor Head Start this year at the beginning of the school year.
How can I contribute?
Those extra toys you brought from your daughter are perfect – crafts, learning games. Anyone can help by making a check out to Adopt-A-Family and dropping it off at Moore & More printing (17 Dutchess Ave., Millerton) or mailing it to PO Box 880, Millerton, NY 12546. When we receive it we send it along to Berkshire Taconic Foundation who will issue a tax letter for the donation. You can call Moore & More Printing at (518) 789-4508 and ask how you may help. There are trees at all the local banks and under which toys can be left.
This program exists solely because of the generosity of our wonderful neighbors. Without them, none of this would be possible.