Non-profit seeking funds for Christmas gifts

GLOVERSVILLE — A new non-profit organization will kick-off the giving season on Tuesday collecting donations through the month of December as part of a program that will see city kids receive a gift delivered by Santa Claus and his helpers on Christmas Eve.

I Can Breathe and I Will Speak Inc. was founded by city resident Lashawn Hawkins in July committed to creating positive change in the community. Hawkins was inspired to form the non-profit seeing the community’s response to a series of peaceful protests she organized throughout Fulton and Montgomery counties calling for an end to racial injustice in the wake of the death of George Floyd as a result of police violence in Minneapolis in May.

With a mission of seeking justice and equality for all races by bridging gaps between communities and law enforcement, Hawkins pointed to the non-profit’s goal as trying to lift up each member of the community regardless of their background.

“Anything and everything to make this community better is what we are doing,” said Hawkins.

In recent months, I Can Breathe and I Will Speak Inc. has focused on providing resources to support community members by giving away free backpacks filled with school supplies during the Gloversville Police Department’s Neighborhood Engagement Unit outings and during a handout at the Farmers Market Pavilion.

Hawkins and the organization have also worked to support residents facing unemployment during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic by organizing a job fair to connect locals with employers looking to hire and helped ensure residents were able to exercise their democratic rights by registering voters ahead of this year’s presidential election.

With the holidays fast approaching, the non-profit is now gearing up to spread cheer to families in need by handing out gifts to city kids on Christmas Eve. Hawkins is adapting the giveaway she originated for Halloween that saw costumed volunteers deliver bags of candy to the homes of 65 pre-registered city kids as a reverse trick-or-treat allowing children to safely celebrate from home amidst the pandemic.

“We are doing Christmas gifts this year for the community for families that are having a hard time,” said Hawkins. “We’re doing it the same way, families can pre-register and we’ll give out the gifts on Christmas Eve.”

Gloversville families can pre-register their children to receive a gift delivered to their home on Christmas Eve by Santa Clause and Mrs. Clause and their helpers by filling out a form available through the I Can Breathe and I Will Speak Facebook page until Dec. 15 at 9 a.m. The free gift giveaway is aimed towards families in need.

To support the holiday feat, the non-profit is seeking the community’s support with donations of new and unused toys, holiday wrapping paper or monetary contributions, as well as non-perishable food and clothing. The collection will officially kick-off on Tuesday also known internationally as Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday was launched in 2012 to create a day encouraging people to do good and has grown into a global movement that each year inspires millions of people to give, collaborate and celebrate generosity. Giving Tuesday calls for people to help out at all levels whether by helping a neighbor, demonstrating support for a particular issue or giving to a critically needed cause.

Hawkins noted that some organizations turn to Giving Tuesday to fundraise to support their own operation, but said all donations gathered by I Can Breathe and I Will Speak during the collection period beginning on Tuesday through Dec. 20 will go directly to the holiday gift giveaway.

“It’s not a benefit for us, it’s a benefit for the community,” said Hawkins. “The purpose of all of the events that I have put on has been solely to provide to our community.”

Donations can be dropped off at the non-profit’s office located at 34 W. Fulton St., Suite 101, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or any time at the Gloversville Fire Department located at 5 Frontage Road.

Hawkins noted that any member of the community is also welcome to stop by the I Can Breathe and I Will Speak office to learn more about the organization that is governed by a five-member board of director and currently consists of roughly 45 active volunteers ranging in age from people under the age of 25 to seniors.

“Even if it’s just a question from someone wanting to know what we’re doing, stop in,” said Hawkins.

The non-profit is also available to support members of the community where possible and has been building ties with local agencies and organizations, including local law enforcement, to act as a conduit to facilitate support or to open a dialogue for individuals who may have had a bad experience in the past.

“If the community has concerns or is not getting service, we can step in,” said Hawkins.

Long-term, Hawkins said the organization is working towards establishing a community haven first in Gloversville and then in surrounding rural areas similar to the Boys & Girls Club of America but for community members of all ages. Hawkins pointed to the goal of establishing locations with space for community activities, enrichment courses and outreach programs and services, as well as recreational facilities.

“My goal is to help all of these little areas to get this together to have the opportunity to make bigger changes for the community, even if they are small,” said Hawkins. “It’s for everybody.”

For more information about I Can Breathe and I Will Speak Inc., the Christmas Eve gift giveaway for Gloversville children or how to donate visit the organization on Facebook or call (518) 752-5038.


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