Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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Jan. 5, 2005

County Workers Donate Loads of Gifts to School Children

OSWEGO -- A few days before area schools closed for their holiday break, two staff members from the Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Middle School could be seen at the county offices at 70 Bunner St. in Oswego, packing a van full of gifts of all shapes and sizes.

School nurse Kathy Treat and physical education teacher Kathy Ross brought the gifts back to the middle school where they were shared with students throughout the district. In all, over 100 children from 11 area schools received special gifts this year through a "giving tree" donated by employees of the County Health Department, Office for the Aging, and Oswego City-County Youth Bureau.

In years past the giving tree was organized by Sandy Butera, a health department staff member who died last year.

"It was very important to our staff association and employees that Sandy's efforts were continued," said Kathleen Smith, Commissioner of Health Services. "The staff wanted to share their generosity with children who are in need across the county."

Carolyn Miller and Sylvia Fields, both employees of the county Health Department, volunteered to organize the giving tree this year. Not sure where to begin, they turned to school nurses throughout the county and asked them to provide names of children in their schools who had special needs this Christmas season.

Nurses from Altmar, Parish and Williamstown elementary schools, A-P-W Middle School, Riley and Leighton elementary schools in Oswego, Granby Elementary and Fulton Junior High, and Hastings-Mallory Elementary and Millard Hawk Primary in the Central Square district responded to the letters.

"In no time at all we had 123 names," said Miller. "We had no idea we would get that type of response."

The health department nurses who are out in the community are accustomed to seeing poverty, but many of the county office staff were not aware of the scope, said Miller. "To be perfectly honest, most of these children didn't ask for toys or games," she said. "They asked for things like blankets, underwear, socks, and clothing."

The project generated a sense of family and camaraderie among county workers at the Bunner Street complex. Through her own experience, Miller knows that her co-workers will pull together and do whatever they can to help each other through difficult times. She said many of the employees gave as if they were buying presents for their own children.

Kathy Treat, the nurse at APW Middle School, said the gifts for students in her district were greatly appreciated. "They were so nice. We had such a huge need," she said. "It was great."

"It was a wonderful experience to see the joy on the faces of the nurses who picked the gifts up," Miller added. "It was really special."

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