For 362 days of the year, Hope Mazzola , a real estate agent with The Hope Mazzola Group, William Raveis - New York, LLC in Katonah, is the top agent in Katonah. And for the other three days of the year, she's an elf.
Hope is the team captain in charge of clothing, toys, gifts and elves for Westchester's Christmas Dinner, held every year on Dec. 25 at St. Mary's School/Monfort Academy in Katonah. The all-volunteer charity event provides a hot Christmas dinner, warm clothing and holiday gifts to 300 guests from various Westchester County shelters and agencies that provide services to the needy.
Two days before Christmas, volunteers descend on the school, rearranging classroom furniture and sorting donations from Toys for Tots and the public. As guests arrive, they visit the donated clothing area and select as much gently-used clothing as they need.
An elf heads each dinner table and helps guests make a wish list of gifts they'd like. While dinner is eaten, the elves select three or four gifts from among the donated items and have them wrapped. "The elf finds out what they need," Hope said. "Those moving out of a shelter might need housewares rather than clothing."
What makes the Christmas dinner truly special in Hope's eyes is that it is a family affair. Her husband, Jim Mazzola, and all three of her boys are involved. Her youngest, Evan, dresses up as a reindeer while Aaron and Jared search out boys their age. "Sometimes the kids in the shelters don't have other kids to talk to," Hope said.
The downside of volunteering on Christmas Day is that the Mazzolas never celebrate the holiday with their extended family. "Every year I ask the kids if they'd like to have Christmas with the family," Hope said. And every year the boys say no, they'd rather do the Christmas dinner. The family gets up early on Christmas Day, opens presents and heads to the school. "My boys have learned that giving is sometimes the best gift," she said.
Donations of new clothing and toys are much needed and may be dropped off at the school on Dec. 23 and Dec. 24. If you'd like to join Hope Mazzola's team of elves, contact her here .
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