PLATTSBURGH - When Thanksgiving is over, many people's thoughts turn to Christmas, and it's no different for Alice E. Heckard.
Heckard, along with Tammy J. Perrotte, oversees The Christmas Bureau, and this is the time of year when the nonprofit organization really begins to pick up steam, said Heckard. The nonprofit organization begins organizing donations of toys, clothing and other gifts to distribute to low-income families in need at Christmastime. It's a tradition that's continued for more than 40 years.
"[The Christmas Bureau] was started by a small group of women from local churches in the 1960s, I believe, and it grew from there," explained Heckard. "They started by collecting food baskets then eventually started collecting used toys."
The operation grew over the years and even changed hands in coordination, Heckard said. Eventually, the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties coordinated the distributions - which then began consisting of new toys - and did so for a number of years until The Christmas Bureau was officially created as its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
"It's more like a business now than ever," said Heckard. "And, it keeps getting better."
Heckard attributes the support of The Christmas Bureau to the generosity of people in the North Country, especially those behind an event known as "Santa Night." The annual event involves members of the community dressing in holiday style and visiting local restaurants and bars, serenading patrons with Christmas carols.
"Since they started doing this, every year it's grown and gotten better and better," said Heckard. "They started out by buying us toys to give to the families and now they give us a large amount of money each year. And, they still buy us toys and other things we need. It's amazing."
Christopher J. Huchro, a financial advisor with West Bay Financial Group, coordinates Santa Night each year and said he is also overwhelmed with the support Santa Night participants give year after year.