HARRISON, N.Y. Her living room is filled to capacity with holiday gifts but none of them will be under her tree come Christmas morning. Harrison resident Jill Valente took the lead this season in Harrison's second annual "Holiday Project" by working to organize over 100 holiday gift packages worth $150 for local families in need. And she didn't work alone.
"There are so many different aspects to this," Valente said. "There's fundraising, and more importantly, you need to work with a huge network of people to help donate the money."
Valente said she's been spreading the word of the project and has received help from countless Harrison groups, families and organizations to collect goods, services and funds. The work, she said, has been as hefty as any other full-time job.
After living in Manhattan for the past 12 years, Valente said she moved back to her hometown of Harrison looking for a way to get more involved with her community. And she's done just that, as she has been working closely with her Harrison neighbors including Ruth Singer, Diana Eppolito and many more.
The project started last year with help from Harrison resident Katherine Frankel, who took the reins in its first year. Frankel worked closely with Nina Marraccini of the Harrison Food Pantry, and several others to address a need that Valente said was apparent in Harrison. Valente said the project's first year worked to collect over 70 packages.
"Kathy worked hard last year. I don't know how she did it," Valente said, citing Frankel's collaboration with Harrison unions and organizations including the police and fire departments.
The project will culminate on Dec. 18 in Valente's home for a community gift-wrapping event and all residents are invited to attend. Those interested in participating in the wrapping celebration can email her at JillValente@Yahoo.com.
"We just keep spreading the word," Valente said. "I've had some great people helping me and it's amazing what people give. Every day I'm more and more impressed by the community's generosity and it's been wonderful to be back here after so many years and take this on and be completely re-embraced by my community."
Here's a list of several Harrison organizations that have donated to the cause:
Pizza 2000- certificate for one large cheese pizza plus delivery per family
Goldberg's Rock'n Bagel Cafe- certificate for six bagels per family
The Harrison Bake Shop- bag of holiday cookies per family
Al Dente- four $15 gift cards
Trottas- four $25 gift cards
Harrison Wine Vault- sponsored one family
Louis Felice Landscaping- sponsored two families
The Harrison Flower Mart- sponsored one family
Joli Salon and Spa- $50 donation
Harrison PBA- $1000 donation
West Harrison Fire House- sponsored one family
Hair Creations- 2 certificates for hair cut plus gratuity
Starbucks - 50 pounds of coffee
Grand Prix New York - two go-cart rides per child ages 9-19
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