Daryl Webb squares local generosity with local needs

HILLTOWNS — When she has lunch in Altamont, Daryl Webb’s Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme is often stuffed. It was her mother’s, made in 1990, and has a spacious trunk in which Webb stacks shoeboxes of toiletries and coffee mugs, mittens, blankets, door blockers, and food that is loaded into cars headed for the Hilltowns.

“People call me and see if I can get this or I can get that,” said Webb, hailed by Hilltowns Community Resource Center program assistant Kathy Whitbeck as a speedy and tenacious volunteer. The resource center coordinates sponsorships for families in need throughout the Hilltowns and relies on volunteers and donations, like those collected and packaged by Webb.

Webb is from Guilderland and the secretary of the Helderberg Chapter of the Albany County Home Bureau. Six women in the chapter, ranging from 65 to 85 years old, sew together and have sponsored families at the resource center with dinners of Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas ham.

They make clothes for pre-natal babies at Albany Medical Center. For birthdays, the women sew tote bags, with gifts inside, to give to people through the resource center.

Quilts of varying sizes are sewn and door blockers are made to keep warm air from passing through a home.

“Some of them, they close off their bedrooms and they stay in the living room and the kitchen because they can’t afford to heat their bedrooms,” Webb said of people who benefit from the center’s donations.

Webb has many stories from her 46 years with the bureau that, she says, saddened her to hear, of people who need basic household items and children who don’t have warm winter clothes.

“The stuff we purchase for these families, it comes out of our pockets,” said Webb.

For the holidays, families make wish lists, which the resource center tries to fill through sponsors. With donations and the help of the Kiwanis Club of the Helderbergs, the resource center provides as many Thanksgiving meals as it can, 24 this year.

The resource center, located in Westerlo, a basic needs program of the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany County, is regularly used throughout the year as a food pantry and center for social services.

Tailored generosity

Webb said women who meet at the Guilderland Town Hall on Wednesdays to knit or crochet often give her what they make. She distributes donated yarn to people throughout the county who then donate their creations.

“In October, we gave the 19 adult blankets, 36 hats, 28 pairs of mittens, five slippers, and five scarves…that’s our Wednesday group,” said Webb.

As a girl growing up in Westchester County, Webb first learned to sew with her mother, making her own dresses, blouses, skirts, and blazers. “She would check it and tell me what's wrong with it,” said Webb.

As a high-school junior, Webb took advanced tailoring, in which she made an outfit for Easter.

“I remember it was very pretty yellow, and light beige skirt with a blouse and a jacket to match,” said Webb.

She first started with the home bureau encouraged by a neighbor. As a young mother, Webb had been a Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader, she volunteered in elementary school, but she didn’t have a babysitter to watch her children during home bureau meetings. She went to one meeting to watch, three months before giving birth to her eldest child, and became involved.

“One thing that made me really like it was that they were friendly…it really felt like you were at home,” said Webb.

Forty-six years later, Webb is ferrying supplies of anything she’s been asked for. Decorated shoe boxes are prepared for people who stay inside their homes, with toiletries, socks, writing supplies, or a mug along with tea, cocoa, or coffee. “Some of these people cannot use a stove, only a microwave,” said Webb.

Webb said the idea to sew clothes for pre-natal babies came when her son had twins born prematurely.

“We held them in our hands, that's how small they were,” she said. Whatever the hospital clothes the baby in, goes home with them.

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