More than 1,000 children from 32 participating area schools received gifts of clothing, toys and other items over winter break through the 2017 Elves Program, with an additional 16 children sponsored by staff from the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.
The Elves Program was started in 1989 by Cornell staff member Bill Alberta as an alternative to the December gift exchange in the office where he worked. Instead of buying each other gifts, people pooled their money to provide gifts for five needy children at Enfield Elementary School. The program now benefits children from Geneva, Tompkins County and other nearby schools.
Alberta retired from Cornell in 2012 but continues to coordinate the program, which operates without overhead costs thanks to the work and contributions of hundreds of volunteers and school nurses and social workers at area elementary schools who identify the children who are in the greatest need. Anyone can contribute or participate: individuals, members of families, office groups and community organizations.
More information on the Elves Program and the related Summer Backpack Program, which provides backpacks and school supplies for children in need in September, is on the Elves Program webpage.