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Pictured are Fenwick Farms Brewery Co-owners Sam Yacko, Ron Fenwick and Kenny VanHouten with Christy Fleming, owner of the Willow Switch coffee shop. Both businesses will be accepting donations Dec. 7 for the Cheerful Heart event, along with Alliance Bank.

RENSSELAER — Fenwick Farms Brewing Company will host its third annual Cheerful Heart fundraiser to feed local less-fortunate families and provide gifts for children for the holidays.

The event slated for Dec. 7 has its origins in a partnership between Fenwick and the Rensselaer Rotary Club. Co-owner Sam Yacko said the club formerly conducted meetings in the building next door to Fenwick, which eventually became the brewery’s family restaurant space.

“We’ve always been a part of Rotary ever since we opened. They’ve always gotten stuff for kids or for families,” Yacko said of the beginnings of Cheerful Heart. “It was kind of a collaborative event in how to partner with them and give back to the community as a small business.”

Fenwick is capable of raising funds for those in need, but it did not have a way of knowing what to purchase for those families and how to get the purchases directly to them. That’s where the Rotary Club came in.

“We don’t have the resources or a way to, I guess, identify those families in need,” Yacko said. “And (the Rotary Club) did. So that’s why we partnered with them to do the Cheerful Heart.”

Cheerful Heart runs in tandem with the local Miracle Tree program put on by multiple organizations, including the Rotary Club.

Miracle Tree allows locals to go to a participating organization, pick up a card with some information about a child in need on it, purchase a toy for that child and return the toy to the organization to be delivered to them.

Now, after Fenwick has raised money from the Cheerful Heart event, it purchases food that is given to the child’s family along with the Miracle Tree toy.

“Miracle Tree is the one that does the vetting and gets the families organized,” said Rotary Club Service Chairman Mike Pruitt. “Those are the (families) that receive the groceries every year. That’s kind of how that’s worked.”

The Rotary Club uses Fenwick’s funds to purchase the groceries for families in need. Funds are also contributed from other organizations, including the Willow Switch Coffee Shop and Alliance Bank.

Those groceries and the children’s toys can then be picked up by the families between 9 a.m. and noon Dec. 14 at Rensselaer’s Presbyterian Church.

“On Friday night (Dec. 13), we’ll get all the toy bags ready, and we will pack all the grocery bags,” Pruitt said. “And, when they come in on Saturday morning (Dec. 14) to pick up their toy, they also get a bag of groceries, the same family.”

Some of those families being helped by the Miracle Tree program don’t even realize they will receive food until that morning.

“A lot of times, the families aren’t even aware that they’re getting groceries,” Pruitt said. “They’re coming to pick up their toys and they wind up with a grocery bag.”

Donations can be made at Fenwick on Dec. 7 and, although there is no donation minimum, $10 will earn donors a free 22 ounce bomber of the collectible 2019 release of Snow Angel Holiday Ale. The Willow Switch will also provide a free 16 ounce coffee or hot chocolate with a $10 donation. Donations can also be made at Alliance Bank.

To encourage donations, live music will be performed in the brewery all day to celebrate the start of the Christmas season.

“In year one, if I remember correctly, we raised $1,300,” Yacko said. “Last year, we did $1,700. So I hope this year is a little more.”