Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, Cartier; their Holiday displays are the first things that come to mind when thinking of Christmas in New York, but did you ever wonder who's responsible for creating those fantastic designs?
As the foremost designer concentrating exclusively on holiday décor and installations, American Christmas is renowned as the industry leader. From traditional to cutting-edge contemporary, their sophisticated displays and imaginative designs dazzle shoppers and visitors at the most famous retailers and landmark buildings across America. Not bad for a niche business started by a 21 year old kid straight out of college.
Visit behind the scenes at American Christmas, where decking the halls is serious business.
On more than one occasion I have set out thinking that I was shooting a story about an inspiring place only to find that the real story is not in the place, but in the people. Fred’s Pantry is built on a foundation of inspiring people.
Fred’s Pantry is Peekskill, New York’s first ‘choice’ food pantry which provides groceries to families and individuals in need. Located at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, it’s shelves are stocked with canned goods and other non-perishable items as well as frozen meats and vegetables. Since opening in February 2010, Fred’s Pantry has served more than 5000 hungry families. None of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of the pantry’s staff and volunteers.
When I contacted Jeanne Blum, Executive Director of Caring for the Homeless Of Peekskill (the organization that runs the Fred’s Pantry program), and explained that I wanted to do a story on Fred’s Pantry, she was adamant that we maintain the privacy of their clients. We agreed that the best day to shoot would be on a day that the pantry was not distributing food. Fortunately for me, Fred’s Pantry was holding it’s first volunteer training day that coming Saturday. A perfect time to meet the people behind the pantry’s success without getting in the way.
A few pieces of information stood out while putting together this film. First, almost anyone can wind up needing the services of a food pantry. The people I interviewed made it clear that their clients represent a broad spectrum of the community. They are not homeless, they are just people who have hit a temporary set-back in their lives and could use a little help making ends meet. Second, if you have ever thought of volunteering at a food pantry but thought you did not have the time, the staff at Fred’s Pantry want you to know that any amount of time you can give is valued. You can do wonders by donating just a few hours a month. You can also help by organizing food drives or simply making a donation. It was amazing to learn how far, with the help of the Westchester Food Bank, they can stretch a dollar.
The program operates every Saturday from 9:30am – 11am out of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church located on 137 N Division Street in Peekskill.
For years The Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester operated the Yorktown Teen Center. It provided a vital service to the community, giving the working parents of Yorktown a safe place to send their kids for the few hours between school dismissal and the time the parents got home from work. In early 2009, due to extreme budget cuts, The Boys & Girls Club was forced to close their satellite units in Yorktown and Tarrytown. Fortunately for Yorktown, Helena Rodriguez recognized that losing the Teen Center was not an option. Although her children are both of college age, and the closing of the Teen Center had no impact on her personally, Helena took on the challenge of keeping the Yorktown Teen Center open. It became her "mission".