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Hillside Family of Agencies

Hillside Family of Agencies moves its Special Santa Program online due to COVID-19

By Press Release

Like so many parts of our lives, Special Santa has moved online due to COVID-19. And the Hillside Family of Agencies is calling on the communities we serve to help make this program successful once again.

Hillside has an office in Batavia, which serves children and families in Genesee County.

For more than 35 years, the Special Santa program has brought together countless thousands of generous individuals, businesses and volunteers in a shared act of community spirit — to ensure many children served by Hillside can enjoy toys and gifts during the holiday season. Last year alone, the program put more than 12,000 gifts in the hands of 4,500 children and families in need in New York and Maryland.

COVID-19 prompted the 2020 program to shift to an all-online model that asks the community to use Amazon Smile Charity Lists (pdf) that have been created by Hillside staff this season. Each of the 19 lists features specific gift requests made by youth in our programs. As the gifts are ordered throughout the season, they will be delivered to specific program locations for Hillside staff to get them to families.

“We couldn’t let COVID-19 stop Special Santa,” said Maria Cristalli, president and CEO. “This online model will help thousands of young people served by Hillside get the happy holidays they deserve. And community support is the real holiday magic that makes it all happen.”

Supporters can also make monetary donations to help defray program costs. 

Hillside is profoundly grateful to our community partners who have helped to ensure the success of Special Santa 2020, and especially our sponsors, the Glover-Crask Charitable Trust, Canandaigua National Bank & Trust and Lamar Advertising.

About Hillside Family of Agencies

Hillside Family of Agencies provides comprehensive health, education and human services for children and families whose challenges threaten their ability to realize their full potential.

It is guided by a deeply held belief that healthy children and strong families with opportunities to succeed are the foundation of a thriving community.

Hillside Family of Agencies is one of the oldest family and youth nonprofit human services organizations in Western and Central New York. The agency started as Rochester Female Association for the Relief of Orphans and Destitute Children in 1837. The first year 46 children were served.

It is committed to delivering the right care, in the right setting, to ensure success — whether in residential treatment, schools, homes or the workplace, Every year more than 13,000 youth, adults and families benefit from over 100 coordinated programs that provide comprehensive, cradle-to-career services in areas including child welfare, mental health, youth development, family development, juvenile justice, special education, developmental disabilities and safety net services.


LIVE: Interview with Bonnie Birkmeyer, Hillside Family of Agencies

Hillside Family of Agencies uses tech tools to connect staff and youth during COVID-19 pandemic

LIVE: Interview with Bonnie Birkmeyer, Hillside Family of Agencies

By Howard B. Owens
Video Sponsor
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Interview with Bonnie Birkmeyer, Western Region executive director, Hillside Family of Agencies.

Hillside Family of Agencies uses tech tools to connect staff and youth during COVID-19 pandemic

By Billie Owens

Press release:

With remote work suddenly becoming the new normal for many teams at Hillside Family of Agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic, technology tools are rising to the challenge.

In one example, Hillside has dramatically expanded the availability of TeleCare resources that make it possible for staff to meet virtually with youth and families using encrypted videoconferencing.

Recently, 236 Hillside staff members participated in a live virtual training session provided by Hillside’s Technology team and staff immediately put this new tool into action. Literally one hour after completing her training, Hillside staff used TeleCare to admit a youth into Hillside’s Family Crisis Support Services program and provide much-needed services right away.

This is just one of many examples of how Hillside continues to make a difference for children and their families while following all CDC guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The following day, more than 85 additional TeleCare sessions were provided to youth and families receiving services from Hillside. Hillside staff are continuing to adapt to this global crisis, and finding new and enhanced ways to put families first.

To learn more, please call 585-256-7500 or email:

Ransack the mock bedroom of a sneaky teen, get Narcan training, and enjoy pizza, too

By Billie Owens

Hillside Family of Agencies welcomes you to join them for "Hidden Mischief & Narcan Training" from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday Dec. 6.

The location is 50 Batavia City Centre. 

Stop in for PIZZA and search our mock teen bedroom, link with resources in the community and gain valuable information.

Please register with Carrie St. Clair by calling 716-220-6850 or emailing her at:

"Hidden Mischief" is a program to create awareness of ways teens conceal drugs or use everyday items for drug use.

The interactive teen bedroom will give each participant an opportunity to search and find drug paraphernalia, drugs and drug references. There will be everyday items displayed that have been converted to hide or use drugs. Join us to see if you can find the hidden mischief. 

This parenting workshop, which also features Narcan training, is presented by GCASA.

Representatives from these organizations will be there: Horizon Health Services; Tobacco Free Coalition; Genesee County Sheriff's Office; and Hillside Family of Agencies.

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