We all need a little help sometimes.
McKean County District Attorney Stephanie Vettenburg-Shaffer reminded people of this Wednesday at the First Presbyterian Church during The Era’s Less Fortunate (ELF) Fund’s kick-off breakfast.
“None of us are in this world alone. We’re here to help others,” she said.
The breakfast marks the start of The ELF Fund’s 36th season, when ELF tags will start making their way into the community for volunteer gift-buyers to pick up. Shaffer, a director on The ELF Fund board, served as the guest speaker.
Shaffer described how it is due to the support of others that she is where she is today.
“When I was growing up, I was somebody who likely would have received services from The ELF Fund,” she said.
From social services in her childhood, to those helped her when she was getting her education, there were many whose willingness to help kept her going. Today, there are police officers who investigate criminal cases for her and community members who show confidence in her by giving her their votes.
Shaffer uses those lessons from her life as a reminder of how to treat others. For years, she has helped bring a little cheer to others at Christmas by taking tags to buy gifts for ELF recipients.
Other community members can help, too, by taking a tag from Christmas trees that will be displayed at local businesses and organizations such as the Bradford Area Public Library and Walmart. Each tag lists the Christmas wishes of a child or senior in the Bradford Area School District.
Volunteer gift-buyers will be able to drop off wrapped gifts from noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 3, 4 and 5, and from 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 7 at the former Goodwill store at 75 Forman St., Bradford, owned by Varischetti & Sons of Brockway. Gift distribution will be Dec. 13, when inmates from the camp at the Federal Correctional Institution at McKean will volunteer to help carry gifts.
On Wednesday, attendees were greeted at the door by Santa Claus before sitting down to a meal catered by the Kennedy Street Cafe. The Rev. Rob Klouw, co-pastor of First Presbyterian Church, gave the invocation.
The crowd at the breakfast heard from other ELF Fund board members, too, who touched on other aspects of the group’s work.
ELF Fund President Ed Hayden talked about how the organization has grown to offer programs all year, such as by developing a partnership with the Old Bradford Speedway for a summertime event.
As for this year’s Christmas gift program, Hayden said there are currently about 150 families signed — well over a thousand gifts — as well as more than 80 seniors.
“We know there’s families out there that are too proud to come ask for help,” he added, encouraging people at the breakfast to share The ELF Fund’s contact information with those families.
The group’s phone number is 814-596-7484.
Board member Rhonda Gray, also a member of the ELF Fund’s Festival of Trees Committee, talked about this year’s annual auction fundraiser, which will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 21 at the Bradford Club. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. This year’s theme is “Ringing in the Holidays.”
For the second year, the committee is holding a Tree Challenge, in which local individuals and groups are invited to compete in a tree-decorating contest. Entries will be on display at the Main Street Mercantile.
So far, four competitors — Kessel Construction, Northwest Bank, Bradford Ecumenical Home and Angela Nuzzo — have stepped forward to participate, but there is still room for a couple more if any locals want to throw their tree in the ring.
John Kearns will provide live musical entertainment.
Tickets are $20 each and are available at Ott & McHenry and Bella Capelli. They will be available at the door, too.
Gray noted that unaccompanied minors at Bradford Area School District will each get a care bag with household and personal items.
Board member Lori Peace shared more about the unaccompanied minors program.
For these youths, Christmas is a sad time of year.
“They don’t have that parental figure or that person reaching out for them,” Peace explained.
Not only does the ELF Fund try to make the holidays easier for these minors, the group also offers support all year with small tokens such as gift cards to bring them a little joy.
The ELF Fund season closes each year with the senior holiday party, which board member Harrijane Moore described.
This year’s senior party will begin at 6 pm. Dec. 8 at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.
It takes the work of many to make the festive event happen, according to Moore.
Metz Culinary Management will make cookies, and the Area Transportation Authority (ATA) and Bradford Area School District will provide transportation to attendees. Bradford Little Theatre will entertain the revelers.
This year’s show — “Carols in Costume” — is a variety show, and Lynne Kuntz and BLT is looking for people who sing well to participate, according to Kristin Asinger, BLT president.
Among acts already on board are the Allegheny Mountain Cloggers, Jim McFarland as the Grinch and members of the cast of BLT’s youth production of Disney’s Frozen Jr. The youth production, under the direction of Dani Newman, is BLT’s first show of 2020.