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Reasons To Smile: Volunteers step up to spread holiday cheer

Many groups in our area are spreading smiles and getting creative to give back to those in need, especially to people struggling during the pandemic.

Many of you are stepping up to bring smiles to those struggling over the holidays. 

It's the focus of Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey's "Reasons To Smile" segment.

Many of you shared ideas and groups making an impact right now.

You can view all of the posts on Ryan's Facebook page.

Some of the groups giving back include the United NEPA Alliance and Coats from Carol that Ryan spotlighted today.

United NEPA Alliance Project 

"I dropped off about a box of food to a woman who had four children on Friday. She burst into tears. I'm getting all filled up, and her son gave me a hug for dropping off food. That truly melted my heart, and I cried all the way home," said Maryann Velez with United NEPA Alliance.

Being there for our neighbors during this challenging time is why Maryann Velez created the United NEPA Alliance and is in the process of registering her charity. 

"We have been in business for about eight months now. I set out after to create an organization that wanted to make real change within our communities for every member of the community. Again, through advocacy, activism, education, and community programs," Maryann said. 

In addition to collecting nonperishables for local families, one nonprofit that the United NEPA Alliance is also helping is Ruth’s Place in Wilkes-Barre, an emergency shelter for homeless women.

"We serve about three hundred women a year, but we also continue our relationship for life. They come in every month for personal care items and food," Crystal Kotlowski with Ruth's Place said. 

"Things that we didn't think about before, like masks and hand sanitizer and disinfectant, things that we took for granted that are in very limited supply," Crystal added. 

A number of area businesses, including “Musical Energi” around Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square, also stepped up to be a drop off-site.

United NEPA Alliance donation links

Find a drop off site to donate non-perishables and other items at the group's Facebook page. 

So far, volunteers have delivered 34 "Baskets of Cheer" to families throughout Luzerne County.

Head here to help Ruth's Place by connecting to their Facebook page, or you can also reach out to the group's website.

Wish list for United NEPA Alliance posted on Amazon and Walmart.

Coats from Carol

Another project that's helping to spread smiles to kids this holiday season is called "Coats From Carol.

It's organized by Katrina Oleski from Scranton. She started it out of the goodness of her heart in memory of her mom Carol, who lost her battle to lung cancer two years ago.

Katrina is now on a mission to collect new or gently used winter coats that are scheduled to be handed out later this month.

"Her main purpose was to give back to the children," Katrina Oleski said. 

Katrina says her late mom Carol is with her on this project in spirit.

"I think she'd be very proud if she was still here. Her foot would be ahead of mine, and she would be doing this herself," Oleski said. 

Coats from Carol event details

  • #CoatsFromCarol
  • Saturday, December 19
  • 1 p.m.
  • The Marketplace at Steamtown, Scranton

    To donate to the project:

    Please contact Katrina Oleski
    Or, Sean Bingham to drop off a coat.
    Katrina Oleski: (570) 780-2446
    katrinaoleski@gmail.com
    Sean Bingham: (570) 906-5641 seanbinghamsb@gmail.com