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Neighbors for Neighbors makes children's wishes come true

| Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, 9:00 p.m.

Making holidays brighter for children and families in need is Cranberry-based nonprofit Neighbors for Neighbors.

Founded by three Cranberry mothers, Neighbors for Neighbors has been fulfilling holiday wish lists for needy families at Seneca Valley and other area schools for four years.

“I was absolutely floored,” said co-founder Amy Roy, when she heard the percentage of children under the poverty line at Seneca Valley. “It's mindboggling, the fact that these are kids that my kids go to school with.”

Last year they helped 240 children; about 145 of those were from Seneca Valley, said Seneca Valley communications director Linda Andreassi. They also help families in Mars Area, Central Valley and Hopewell in Beaver County and several group homes in Pittsburgh, Roy said.

Roy was helping families at another school district with Christmas gifts starting eight or nine years ago before making it local. She contacted Andreassi and asked her if there was anything Neighbors for Neighbors could do in Seneca Valley and got an enthusiastic yes.

While Cranberry and Seneca Valley's other communities are growing and thriving, Andreassi said around 15 percent of families at Seneca Valley are considered economically disadvantaged.

“There's pockets in our community where families are struggling,” she said. “Having Neighbors for Neighbors help for the holidays for these families who wouldn't have anything under the tree for Christmas morning is incredible.”

Together with friends Dani Jo McLane and Jeannette Valentine, Roy said they began buying gifts to fill the wish lists for those in need at Seneca Valley. As more people found out about what Neighbors for Neighbors was doing, more help and donations rolled in and their reach began to grow. This year, Roy said, they hope to target 300 families.

At Seneca Valley, Andreassi asks building principals and guidance counselors to discreetly identify families who would benefit from help and gather wish lists. Donors can choose items from a Wish List Tree at four locations in the area, make cash donations or take on whole wish lists to complete.

Wish List Trees can be found at the Cranberry Township Municipal Building, Young Brothers Tae Kwon-Do, 9 Rounds and Psycle Fitness starting Nov. 18.

Items requested range from necessities like winter coats, hats, boots, gloves, clothes and hygiene items, to school items like art supplies, science kits and books. Children also ask for things like jewelry, baby dolls, video games and bicycles. Andreassi said seniors in high school have been given laptops to help them on their transition into college.

The gifts that seem more frivolous are just as important as the bare necessities, Andreassi said, as it all adds up for the benefit of the child.

“They've been helpful in so many important ways and in order to be successful in school and in the classroom, basic needs have to be met. We do that with Neighbors for Neighbors' help,” Andreassi said. “But even more so they're able to take that a step further and provide them with some nicer personal items. Children love having things to call their own. It's so important and helps to build a level of confidence… and that transfers into the classroom.”

For more information, visit the Neighbors for Neighbors website, n4npgh.org.

Rachel Farkas is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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