NORWICH — With the holiday season quickly approaching, downtown Norwich store Ashby Ann is focusing on giving back to the Chenango County community. Owner Kirsten Vidler-Mackey has partnered with Fostering Futures New York of Chenango County (FFNYCC) to provide Christmas goodies to area foster and kinship families.
FFNYCC is a volunteer-based organization through Improve Norwich Now (INN) that aims to support Chenango County foster and kinship families through quality time with the family, providing meals, helping with household chores and projects, and fun events throughout the year.
In the store, located at 24 South Broad Street in Norwich, Vidler-Mackey has set up a Christmas tree adorned with one ornament per foster child, listing their age, gender, and interests. Community members can then stop by the store and check out the ornaments to see what the children are wishing for this Christmas, to purchase and donate to FFNYCC.
"People can come in and look and see, okay, this kid likes this. Perfect, I’m going to go buy something for that kid. But not take it off the tree, because I’d rather have two or three items for each, and then when I have two or three items I can just pop it right off," said Vidler-Mackey.
She said gifts can be very gently used or new, and new items can be priced around $10. The gifts will then be unpackaged and placed in gift bags to be given to the kids during the FFNYCC Christmas Train Ride at the Cooperstown-Charlotte Valley Railroad.
"I’m going to undo their original boxing and put them in a cute bag or something, because this is what they’re giving them on the train ride. So it’s easily done and we don’t have to snip anything. It’s all right there inside their little satchel with their name on it and everything else," said Vidler-Mackey.
Items purchased for FFNYCC donation can be brought to Ashby Ann unwrapped by December 8.
Vidler-Mackey will also be hosting a wrapping party for the gifts on Thursday, December 8. Community members who would like to join in and enjoy snacks, drinks, and wrap donated items can contact Vidler-Mackey at 607-316-7758 or through the Ashby Ann Facebook page.
Donations are also being accepted at the store for a Christmas pajama party hosted by Ashby Ann. Small, Christmas-themed items and trinkets such as socks, mittens, small toys, and more can be dropped off at Ashby Ann to be added into goodie bags that will be given to the kids.
The party will feature a Christmas carol sing along and reading of "The Night Before Christmas" by Frank and Eadie Revoir, a book reading by Norwich Police Officer Alecia Slack, snacks, goodie bags, and family portraits by local photographer Tim Brown.
"I just want to make it super special for all the kids, because I know sometimes they feel lost in the system, even though they have good, loving foster homes. Still, they feel lost. So I want to make them feel extra loved," said Vidler-Mackey. "That’s what it should be about: giving back."
As a special gift, Vidler-Mackey will be donating custom Christmas ornaments for each child, handmade by local artisan Eric Davis of Bullthistle Woodworking.
"You’ve got to think, these kids don’t have anything that’s theirs, that they own, that they have with their name," she said. "So I’m going to give that to them. So with their names and the dates on them, and something cutesy like a tree or a snowflake. Just something loving and they’ll get that and a goodie bag with just cute little socks or whatever I can find for each individual goodie bag."
With her theme of giving back this holiday season, Vidler-Mackey hopes that she can not only bring a little light to the lives of others, but also inspire a wave of kindness and generosity throughout the area.
"I think that even just the small actions that I’m taking might cause a wave. Sometimes somebody sees one little thing being done and it makes someone else do something, and encourages them to go forth with their idea on something else for giving back. So let’s hope that’s what it does," she said. "It’s just one small move to make the world better. That’s all you can do, and then hope and pray that people follow suit."
Ashby Ann holiday hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Beginning December 1, the store will also be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. More information can be found on the Ashby Ann Facebook page.