Luminaria Night for Homeless

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Genesis House of Olean Lights Up Neighborhood in Observance of those Less Fortunate
By Nicholas Pircio
95.7 FM, WPIG

Let the light shine!  The Genesis House of Olean is once again preparing to cast some light on the longest night of the year.  That would be on December 21st, an especially difficult time for homeless people.  Easing the pain is what the Genesis House homeless shelter is all about.

The light takes the form of luminary candle kits now available at various locations, including a headquarters set up at the Olean Center Mall, which opened just recently.  Area churches, which participate in the annual fundraiser are also on board and are ready to sell the kits.

Genesis House volunteers Marcia Storch and Carol Gallo say that December 21st is when homeless individuals face their greatest challenges of darkness and loneliness.

On that night, area residents are asked to be “the light in someone’s life” by helping with Luminaria Night.  Each luminary kit contains ten white lunch bags, ten votive candles, sand for the bags and assembly directions.  Each kit costs $10.

Each purchased kit will help fund the activities at Genesis House, which maintains the main Victorian style home and a men’s shelter. Gallo says, “This is a community effort with people in many neighborhoods getting involved.”  She expands on the concept of homelessness, “If you were out on the streets, or a teenager, or a mother with some small children, you’d be pretty darn lonely.  And the hours just seem endless.” The concept was begun in Bethlehem Pennsylvania several years ago.

In Olean, 2011 marks the third year for the Genesis House fundraiser.  Storch notes that, “We ask people to (light their lamps) from 6-8 p.m.  Also, we have the cooperation of the City of Olean.  Mayor Linda Witte has purchased several kits to go around the municipal building.  And Mimi Yanetsko (of the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce) has agreed to turn off the (Christmas) lights in Lincoln Park, and the luminaries will be lit all through the park.”

Gallo says that, “About a month ago, we sent letters to churches mostly in Cattaraugus County.  If someone is homeless in the county, there really is no place to go except to Genesis House.  So the churches in this general area are reaching out to us, and they’re willing to help support this activity. Many of them are selling the kits within their church communities.”  Neighborhood street captains are helping with distribution.

Luminaria headquarters at the Olean Center Mall is open during times of greatest customer activity.  That would be during late mornings, afternoons when children get out of school, and evenings from 6-7:30.  People can either order, purchase, or pick up a pre-ordered kit during those times.

Genesis House, located at 107 South Barry Street in Olean, is also in need of blankets, bed sheets, pillow cases, quilts, and comforters.  Donated items should be delivered to the Genesis House.

For more information or to place an order for luminary kits, please phone Genesis House at 716-373-3354.