CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – This year, for the first time, the Croton Business Council and the Village of Croton teamed up to provide a holiday tree and expand the festivities that go along with it.
People gathered at the vacant area next door to Groovy on Grand, where a bare fir tree had been erected. The property is owned by Lenny Amicola, who was delighted to host the holiday tradition.
While kids of all ages decorated the tree with ornaments and candy canes, jingle bells filled in the pauses, and carolers sang out. Refreshments were available as well.
When darkness descended upon the Hudson Valley, the holiday tree was lit and Santa appeared, chuckling and posing for photos.
Quite a different scene took place at the Holy Name of Mary Church across the street. Almost two dozen teenagers were gathering to spend the night and the next morning on the sidewalk in front of the church, with only cardboard boxes for shelter. The goal was to raise awareness of homelessness and to raise money for Caring for the Homeless of Peekskill.
“It’s not comfortable but you have to stick it out,” said 15-year-old Nick Derbabian. “We’re replicating what people all over the world are doing.”
“We stay up late and we build a fire to stay warm,” said Caroline Barnes, a two-year veteran of the project. “The minute you stop moving you feel cold. You get numb everywhere. Eventually you get to sleep.”
The group provides temporary housing for homeless adults and also puts them in touch with appropriate agencies to help them attain independent living. In conjunction with the Salvation Army, it sponsors breakfast programs for the needy and the elderly and has recently opened a food pantry in conjunction with St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 137 Division Street, Peekskill.