ITHACA, N.Y. –– Sheriff Derek Osborne and Undersheriff Jennifer Olin filled and delivered baskets to families with small kids that are currently housed in local shelters Saturday.

Sheriff Osbourne said the office recently got in some teddy bears, clad in their own mini sheriff’s office t-shirts, and he and Olin figured that they would come in handy for the holiday. A trip to the dollar store for festive candies, toys and coloring books filled out the rest of the baskets.

“We knew Easter was coming up and how difficult it is to celebrate with COVID going on. We had just gotten these teddy bears in, so it came out of that,” he said.

In March the Tompkins County Department of Social Services (DSS) along with St. John’s Community Services announced that they were looking into housing people in alternate locations, such as area hotels, in order to better comply with social distancing recommendations.

Services for those in need are still being provided but those inquiring are asked to do so by phone unless otherwise necessary. Individuals who are homeless or experiencing a housing crisis can call (607) 274-5644 for housing services or (607) 274-5345 for cash assistance.

If someone does not have access to a phone, they can come to the DSS office  at 320 West Martin Luther King Jr Street/ State Street, where they will be met at the door and screened. Once they are cleared to enter, they will be able to call their worker from the lobby phone and will be assisted.

Also complying with social distancing precautions, Osbourne and Olin weren’t able to hand-deliver their Easter baskets to the kids they served, but Osbourne said the gifts were dropped off at the front desk of area shelters to be distributed.

“We are hoping that everyone has a safe and wonderful Easter,” Osbourne wrote on Facebook Saturday morning.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com