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Family-to-Family links well-off families to others in need

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Koner also conducts a giving program for elementary school children called Kids Can! The students and their families collect food items and take them to the school.

"With Kids Can! the idea was to localize our giving so schools could take on local food pantries, each grade for a month at a time," Koner says. "The beauty of this is that the school has a relationship with the pantry. They can supply what is needed, not what they think might be needed. There is wonderful interplay between the school and the students."

Koner is always thinking about new ways to give. Recently she began a shoe drive, collecting thousands of pairs of shoes for children in the poorest areas of the US.

"When I started this, I was floored by the generosity of people in this country," she says. "Many of the original participants are just middle Americans."

Even in the midst of the current economic downturn, with many people out of work, Family-to-Family has lost few donors.

"So many people have sacrificed things and budgeted us into their own budgets," Koner says. "People have lost jobs and had to scale back, and some have said they might have to stop supporting their families, but usually they have found a way to continue."

In another new program, Giving Works!, kids in Hastings-on-Hudson and other communities pack up gently used books and send them to a school or youth center in a less-advantaged town. Kids in that community then package the books in individual backpacks, which have also been donated, and take them to other kids. Koner says this teaches children who have only known going without how to give something themselves.

"Giving Works! enables poor children to be givers. It's profound, the dignity it creates. This is empowering and can be life changing," she says. "Food programs are donor dependent. If a donor stops, then we have to replace that donor." Books are easier to find than donors, she says.

Schools also take part in The Travelling Journal, which provides a way for students to communicate with their less-fortunate peers. The children write and draw in a shared journal that goes back and forth between the schools.

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