When Dr. William Crawford (aka Reverend Bill), the minister of Larchmont Avenue Church, went up to the podium to welcome and thank those who came out to support the church's annual fundraising dinner last Saturday, he knew that a full room of generous congregates would be listening.
"I am always pleased with the amount of support and generosity I see," he said. "These are two great organizations that we are trying to help, and there is a tremendous need for financial support."
Reverend Bill was speaking of the Interfaith Council for Affordable Residence (I-Care), a group that provides housing for families in Larchmont and Mamaroneck, and Hope Community Services, a charity food provider in New Rochelle.
"We have a big outreach program at the church and we try to do whatever we can," said Jim McDonald, a volunteer who greeted guests as they arrived. "This is an annual dinner and we're happy that we can help raise money for these two very important groups."
I-Care was started 19 years ago by current Town Justice Dolores Battalia (then town supervisor), who also spearheaded the process of Mamoroneck buying the Larchmont Motel, which was inhabited by many homeless families, to convert it into moderate-income housing for area residents.
"We were attempting to have an impact on the homeless situation in Westchester," Battalia said. They started as transitional housing, taking in homeless families for a premium rent and providing them with support services to "get them up and running and back to some type of normal life." Now they are a federally funded Section 8 subsidy, she added.
"It's a tremendous organization," said County Legislator Judy Myers, who was on hand for the dinner to provide her support. State Assemblyman George Latimer also took part, noting that it was great to see so many people come out to support both groups.
Caroline Silverstone, current chairman of I-Care, explained that since it began, the organization has bought or built six two-family houses scattered around Larchmont and Mamareoneck.
"Each house houses two families. These are families that otherwise wouldn't be able to afford to live here," Silverstone said. "They are able to put their children in Mamaroneck schools, which is a great advantage to know they are safe and in a good school program."
In addition to helping to pay the mortgage, I-Care relies on volunteers to help with maintenance and repair issues on these homes. Some of the money raised on this night would go toward fixing things that were damaged in the recent rain storms.
HOPE Community Services was founded in 1984 by Mary Lou McNaney in response to the hunger she saw in New Rochelle. A soup kitchen was started in 1984, and a food pantry came a few years later.
"Last year, the Food Pantry provided 33,909 meals and more than 17,000 bags of groceries," said Crawford, who urged the attendees to bid on the 53 auction items and purchase one of the $25 grocery bags that would provide 27 meals to a family.
The auction included everything from pre-season football tickets to restaurant gift certificates to artwork by some local painters. There was, for example, a hand-knitted blanket and a ceramic work by local Christine King.
"There are some wonderful items and we hope everyone will bid high," said McDonald. "The people at the church are great and we are happy that so many people are taking part tonight."