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Utica couple known to help needy is holding Holiday give-away

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - George and Kimberly Wands own a produce stand on Mohawk Street in Utica, but they are known in this area for much more than the food items they sell.

The Wands help local veterans in need, and anyone in need for that matter, all year long by giving out free produce for those that can't afford it.

Also on many holidays, they have held giveaways of such things as bushels of apples.

This year, for Christmas, they are giving away gift items, everything from small photo albums to toys.

Kimberly Wands says the numerous boxes they are have set out in the produce stands are full of items she and her husband purchased earlier this year to sell at reduced rates to help the kids and families in the area, but they decided that since this has been such a tough year economically for everyone, they would just give it away. She said, "And it's brand new, Dollar Store type items, and we decided at Christmas, a lot of people don't have money, the economy is not good, so we figured it'd be a good way for people to come and fill up their socks for the kids."

And that's what many came to do Sunday morning, after hearing about the giveaway on NEWSChannel 2 Weekend Today a short time earlier.

Victor McKenzie of Utica was one of them.

He came down with his wife who thought it would be nice to pick up a couple of items for their neighbors' young children. He said, "There are a lot of kids and sometimes you see them without gloves, hats, proper clothing, so whatever we can do to help out, if it's free, it's for me, to help someone else."

McKenzie says Kimberly and George Wands are what this season is all about.

The Wands' loyal customers who stopped by Sunday morning to buy some potatoes and onions say the couple's generosity is seen year-round.

One of those loyal customers is Joanne Gerace. She said, "They see they people that need help they absolutely extend themselves to them, they help them out, I've seen it over the years, they're just wonderful people."

Kimberly's says her husband George lives to see others smile and also for his community. She said, "He does so much for this community. He does, he cleans the garbage off the street, with a garbage can, broom, blowers, walks around, picks it up, not just our street, Bleecker St., all the way down to RJ's, everywhere, brings it back here, we bag it and put it out."

But Sunday morning, George wasn't outside to see all of the smiles from those looking through the gift items.

He was too ill to see the smiles he is helping create.

Kimberly says George was diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer two weeks ago and has a hard time swallowing and is in pain, so he remained upstairs. She said, "Everything goes day by day and one step at a time. It will probably be George's last Christmas to do this giveaway, so...so I hope that people come for their kids."

And if you do stop down and find a nice gift or two, besides telling Kimberly 'thank you', maybe also say, 'what can I....do for you?"

If you missed the giveaway on Sunday, don't worry, the family will be putting more gifts back out on Monday, Christmas Eve.

The hours are once again, 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The food stand is at the corner of Mohawk and Jay Streets in East Utica.

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