Like all good ideas, it seems obvious after the fact.
The 'season of giving' winds down after Thanksgiving and Christmas. That's right about when hockey season kicks into high gear.
In Port Chester, Carver Center's food pantry gives away food to eligible families in the community with proof of address and income eligibility. The food, which is packaged - cereal, pasta, canned soups, vegetables, tuna fish, rice, baby formula, and so on - is purchased by the Carver Center. But if the racks can be filled with donations instead, Carver Center's limited funds are freed up to purchase items like frozen whole chickens and meat.
Enter Sharon Ketchabaw, who runs the Rye Rangers youth hockey club with her husband Steve. The Ketchabaws had the idea last year. And the teams - Bantams, Squirts, Peewees and Mites - all got into the act.
"Each player was asked to bring one item to each practice or game day, so it was easy," said Ketchabaw. What she didn't say was that some families have multiple players and there a lot of practices and a lot of games!
Ketchabaw said that when the collection drive started last year, the team was moved by the sight of nearly bare shelves. "The need is even greater now," she explained. "It's a different world, and these kids are not sheltered. There is a lot of need. It's in their back yard now and they want to help. They're happy to help. They know they have an impact."
Longtime Carver volunteer Lynn Halperin who helped coordinate the project hopes other teams adopt the project during their respective seasons. "Basketball, lacrosse, baseball, soccer. It would be easy. Each could take a turn organizing a collection drive," she said. Then, pointing to Alex Chavarria, Carver Center's community and family services manager, Halperin said, "Guys like him are the real heroes."
Chavarria pointed to shelves bursting with donated cans, bottles and boxes from the Rye Rangers. "It will be gone by Friday, but this is great," he said. "The Rye Rangers' donations free up our limited funds for items that wouldn't otherwise be possible."
According to Chavarria, little food is wasted in the food pantry because families get to pick and choose from their grocery lists, rather than receive pre-assembled food baskets. Gesturing toward the clothing room adjacent to the food pantry, he smiled. "We didn't know the Rangers were also bringing in boots, sweaters and coats. These will all be put to good use."
The Carver Center, at 400 Westchester Ave. in Port Chester, was started as a storefront after-school program during WWII for children whose parents worked in defense plants. The founders were African-American parents who advocated for the minority community and named the center after african-American scientist George Washington Carver, who died in 1943.
Youth sports coaches or team parents in the Port Chester and Rye area interested in organizing a food or clothing drive - or teens looking for community service opportunities for honor society or civics requirements - are encouraged to contact Carver's community and family services manager, Alex Chavarria, at (914) 305-6042 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.