By Bill O’Boyle, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — Irene Kelly knows the problem of homelessness and need in the area cannot be fixed. But she believes it can be helped.
Kelly, the public relations manager at Boscov’s Department Store in Wilkes-Barre, is coordinating the store’s fifth annual Christmas in July promotion.
The promotion that will run the entire month of July to raise money for food and clothing for people in need, especially members of the local homeless population.
Kelly used a quote from Mother Teresa to exemplify the purpose of the campaign: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
Boscov’s and Catholic Social Services of Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties will again work together with the Commission on Economic Opportunity to celebrate Christmas a little early this year.
“We will have a Christmas tree on the fourth level of the store’s furniture department,” Kelly said. “Pick an ornament and help support a special friend from your community in need by purchasing the item listed on the ornament and bringing it to the courtesy desk on the fourth level of the store, July 1 through July 31.”
Kelly said customers can also buy a pin-up at any register for $1 to help support Catholic Social Services. Every dollar goes directly to the cause and is used to buy items like socks, underwear and tee shirts.
Monsignor Joseph Kelly, director of the St, Francis of Assisi Kitchen in Scranton, and Gretchen Hunt, director of Nutrition Programs & Resource Development at the Commission on Economic Opportunity and Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank, attended the meeting to discuss their roles in helping with the promotion.
Boscov’s will hold a food drive for the Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre, which is in desperate need of canned goods like tuna, fruit, soup and vegetables, along with boxes of cereal, peanut butter, jelly, macaroni and cheese and all nonperishable foods. Donations of food can be dropped into the barrel next to the Christmas tree on Boscov’s fourth level.
Kelly said Boscov’s will also run promotions in its stores in Scranton, Hazleton and Pottsville to help those in need and homeless.
“Every dollar we raise goes directly to the cause,” she said. “And the need in our community has been getting worse each year.”
She said many young people are finding themselves in need and Monsignor Kelly said families with two people working are also having difficulty making ends meet.
“I talked to a man the other day,” Kelly said. “He and his wife both work and they have three children. He said our food pantry keeps them going. I’m constantly amazed at the growing number of families in need in our area. Many of them are on the road to homelessness.”
Hunt said the demand for food and other necessities is constant and the summer months are traditionally slow for donations.
“But the demand is always there,” Hunt said. “There are many families who don’t have enough money to buy food, so they need to go to the local food pantries for help.”
Monsignor Kelly said raising money is important, but raising awareness is critical.
“If people are aware, they will get involved,” he said. “It’s important for people to know that there are people living on their block who are struggling to provide sufficient food for their families.”