Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time to come together and celebrate the spirit of cooperation and community. It’s an opportunity to share what we have with friends, family and sometimes even strangers; the season is rooted in giving and generosity.

This Thanksgiving will likely be much different than the ones we have grown accustomed to in recent years. There is perhaps no greater tradition for Americans to gather than Thanksgiving dinner, but with COVID-19 cases on the rise again, annual large gatherings carry potential risks. We must be prudent and responsible. For the health and safety of those closest to you and within your communities, please exercise caution when making travel plans this season.

While some gatherings may be smaller in size, the demand for food, clothes and other necessities has grown in the wake of the COVID crisis. Many who lost employment and income as a result of the forced shutdown desperately need help. I encourage you to give generously if you can and help those less fortunate. For those with the means and time, there are plenty of ways you can help in our region.

The Salvation Army has food pantries all over the nation and New York. Use this tool to find one near you: Salvation Army locator. For example, the Oswego County Salvation Army, which is dedicated to helping the less fortunate, is planning to serve a take-out traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 25, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 73 W. 2nd St. in Oswego. Additionally, Catholic Charities of Oswego is an invaluable resource and always looking for volunteers and donations.

Further, the Tithe My Shoes drive, an annual effort to collect new or gently-used shoes and boots for the Rescue Mission, is another great way to pitch in. The shoe drive was started in 2014 by Millard “Mudd” Murphy, former mayor of Central Square and executive director of the Oswego County Conference of Mayors. Interested in helping out? Drop off any new or gently-used shoes at 200 N. 2nd St. in Fulton by Dec. 7.

The challenges we have faced this year have been unprecedented. Existing financial stressors for families across the state and at every level of government have been exacerbated by this public health crisis, and we are all starting to feel the crunch. This Thanksgiving, more than ever, try to remember what you do have and appreciate it a little more; offer a helping hand when you can.

Contact Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay at his district office, 200 N. 2nd St., Fulton, New York, 13069, by email at barclayw@nyassembly.gov or on Facebook and Twitter at @WillABarclay.

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