Extra layer of giving
LPHS seniors’ skating show kicks off season of giving for North Elba Community Christmas Fund
LAKE PLACID — Lake Placid High School seniors Abigail Gavin and Kiera Levitt began figure skating at the age of 2. That’s not surprising, given the sport’s long history in this village — and the fact that their mothers are skating coaches.
They’ve also teamed up to help the North Elba Community Christmas Fund for their senior project, another tradition in Lake Placid. All seniors must complete a capstone project before graduating, and many choose unique ways to help the community.
Their senior project is an ice show benefit to collect gifts for families in need this holiday season. It’s called the Holly Jolly Ice Show, and the theme is “The Polar Express.” It starts at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4 at the Olympic Center’s 1932 Rink.
“Abby and I both want to be teachers when we grow up, so our love for kids and helping others is very strong,” Levitt said. “And this is a great community to help do this.”
Levitt is a member of the High Peaks Skating Academy, based in Tupper Lake, and Gavin is a member of the Skating Club of Lake Placid. Neither will be skating in the ice show; they are directing it. Figure skaters will be coming from all corners of the North Country to perform.
“From St. Lawrence and Potsdam, and even here in Lake Placid we have some skaters, girls who we’ve all skated with since we were younger, competed against and just our little skating family,” Levitt said.
Admission to the ice show is a gift — or gifts — for families in the community, which will be donated to the North Elba Community Christmas Fund.
“That’s all we ask for is donations,” Levitt said.
Gavin and Levitt knew they wanted to do a skating show for their senior project.
“And we knew that with Christmas, especially this year, everything is a lot tighter because of the economic situation,” Gavin said. “So we decided we would reach out to the North Elba Christmas Fund, especially since Zach Clark’s sister, Cora Clark, she used to be our school nurse. We knew about this program as soon as we got into our school, and she was very good at showing all the students all about it.”
The ice show is sanctioned by US Figure Skating and the High Peaks Skating Academy.
“Cora, myself and our group of volunteers are incredibly thankful for two very thoughtful and caring Lake Placid High School seniors,” North Elba Community Christmas Fund co-organizer Zach Clark wrote in an email after the Nov. 29 interview with this editor. “There are so many great causes in our community to support, yet Kiera and Abbie followed their passion and hearts of giving back to the community by supporting the NECCF. Their love of skating and children was so evident as you interviewed them for this article. They will be great teachers and we’re very thankful they chose our program.”
Many people shorten names to make them less bulky — for the eyes, for the ears, etc. Such is the case with the North Elba Community Christmas Fund. A lot of locals simply call it the North Elba Christmas Fund. But when shortening the name in that way, they’re missing the most important part of the program.
“Community is definitely in there because it’s the community that makes this work,” said Zach, who organizes the program with his sister Cora and local business owner Jessie Wells Seguin.
On social media, finding posts about the fund is easy — with a hashtag: #neccf. The fund has Facebook and Instagram accounts.
The North Elba Community Christmas Fund has two main distribution programs — one for toys, gifts and clothing, and one for Christmas meal boxes.
The High Peaks Resort will again host the toy, gift and clothing distribution from Tuesday, Dec. 13 to Thursday, Dec. 15.
“Last year, we had the banquet room with approximately two dozen tables,” Zach said.
Those tables are loaded with toys and gifts that are purchased through monetary donations from the community. Toys and other gifts are also collected at numerous businesses throughout the village.
“We set appointments and times up for families to come, and they basically shop to pick out some gifts for their kids that they need to get through the holiday season,” Zach said.
Families each get about 20 minutes of alone time to do their “shopping” to keep it private. Last year, about 140 families were served at the High Peaks Resort.
“The recipients of the program are just so thankful for the generosity of the people of Lake Placid and the surrounding area,” Zach said. “We get cards and checks from — not just around town — but actually all over the country, from people that visit here that are summer residents.”
A lot of people think Lake Placid is filled with wealthy families. They’re definitely here, with second homes and lakefront getaways. But many low- and middle-income families make this resort community run — working in stores, restaurants and hotels.
“There’s a ton of hard-working people here and they just need a little extra help,” Zach said. “With the crazy world we live in, with the economy, money’s a little tighter this year.”
The Crowne Plaza will again host the holiday food box distribution on Friday, Dec. 16 and Saturday, Dec. 17. Zach anticipates helping close to 200 families with holiday meals this year.
“We try to purchase turkeys and stuffing, like a traditional Christmas meal,” he said.
Volunteers begin on Friday, packing all the non-perishable items in boxes.
“You can imagine 200 large banana boxes spread out around the room,” Zach said. “We get a group of two dozen volunteers, we fill the boxes, and then bright and early Saturday morning, we have our refrigerated truck with the perishable items.”
Volunteers are there early Saturday, packing the boxes with perishable items in time for the volunteer drivers, who begin delivering the boxes at 9 a.m.
“We give them addresses, and they deliver the boxes to the people around town,” Zach said.
Elfing Trees with wish lists for specific kids are located at the Palace Theatre on Main Street and the Lake Placid Health and Medical Fitness Center on Old Military Road.
“Everybody has a number, so it’s all anonymous,” Seguin said. “(For example) you choose a little girl at the age of 7 that likes this, this and this. And then you go and shop for that child. It’s almost like taking that child under your wing.”
The Palace Theatre describes the process this way: “Choose a child’s wish from the tree. Find a gift. Bag or wrap it. Attach a provided tag. Return to Bluesberry Bakery, Mary Ballou Design or the back porch of the Clark Funeral Home by Sunday, December 11th.”
People adopting tags purchase the gifts and drop them off at the Elfing Tree site or partner businesses.
Zach stresses that the North Elba Community Christmas Fund helps all children who need help.
“We make sure kids of all ages have warm winter clothing boots and the necessities just to ride our long Adirondack winters,” he said.
“Also, in the past kids would ‘age out’ of the program, so to speak at 13. But with the help of our generous donors, we are able to extend our program to teenagers.”
For example, gift cards are provided to older kids for businesses such as the Palace Theatre, Subway and Emma’s Lake Placid Creamery.
“The Bookstore Plus also has a tree set up so people can buy books and gift cards so kids can go choose their own books,” Zach said. “Reading is good. We appreciate the support of the local businesses and would always welcome anyone who would like to jump on board. As you can imagine gift cards are a huge hit with the teenagers.”
And the North Elba Community Christmas Fund couldn’t serve the public without a “boat load” of volunteers.
“It takes a community, and we’re very lucky,” Zach said.
Anyone wishing to contact the fund can send an email to the organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Monetary donations can be made through the Venmo (neccf) digital wallet service and by mailing a check to the North Elba Community Christmas Fund, c/o Cora or Zach Clark, 2695 Main St., Lake Placid, NY 12946.