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Copake Colleen creates a cheery community Christmas

COPAKE — With the season of good cheer and generosity well underway, dozens of area residents have been giving of themselves to help others in countless ways.

One bright and shining star on that living-giving tree is Colleen Quinn, who lives her philosophy: “You’ve got to leave your mark while you can.”

This single mother with a familiar face and two teenage sons, Christopher and Dominic, holds down three very active jobs.

One is as the friendly, ever sunny waitress at Dad’s Diner; another at the local gas station; and lastly again as a server at the Clock Tower Pub & Grill.

Despite that incredibly hectic schedule, she is once again knee-deep in holiday preparations as she looks for donations as well as diners for what has quickly become a beloved Christmas tradition in the town of Copake, for residents from around the area. It’s the third annual “Be Our Guest” Community Christmas Dinner 2021 (COVID-style).

In less time than it takes for a “wink of an eye and a nod of a head” — Copake Colleen — as she is often called, has turned the spark of  an idea into a major success. She’s fed a total of 430 residents, with more to come this year.

Knowing what it is like to be alone on a holiday, Copake Colleen began the project in 2019 when she “volunteered for Thanksgiving with a bunch of local churches that do Thanksgiving every year.

“I asked where I could go for Christmas, and they told me nobody does a Christmas one around here. I didn’t like that, so I decided to start a Christmas dinner," she said.

“I have a lot of angels that help,” she added, including Ginsberg’s Foods in Hudson, which  donates “most of the food, which is amazing. Last year they donated all the ham, and this year, they told me whatever I need at all, just to let them know.”

Other local businesses have also supported her initiative, which has been key. She started the project by asking for $5 donations and placed donation jars “everywhere and anywhere.”

With that help, she said, the dinner is “completely funded by the community — and then all the extra money gets funneled back into the community,” with $1,800 raised the first year and $7,600 raised last year — all going to the local food pantry.

This year, she plans to distribute any excess funds among the Roe Jan Food Pantry, the Blessing Box, Ancramdale Neighbors Helping Neighbors, Columbia County Burn Victims Fund and the Safe at Home Committee of Hillsdale.

The flyer advertising the project notes that “Every human being reading this” is invited to the free holiday feast of ham, mac & cheese and various fixings with staggered assigned pick-up times scheduled between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Clock Tower Pub & Grill (moved from the Town Park).

To sign up for a meal, leave a message at 518-567-1208, email dosbambinos5307@gmail or Facebook Colleen Quinn.

Donations to help Quinn pay for the meal may be made through Zelle, Venmo, PayPal or Facebook.

Donation jars are also stationed throughout Copake at the Clock Tower Pub & Grill, Dad’s Diner, the Copake Sunoco; in Hillsdale at Four Brothers and the Gulf Station; in Millerton at the Talk of the Towne Deli; and in Ancramdale at the Ameri Store on Route 22.

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