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    Posted December 30, 2008

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Meet Our Falat Project Volunteers


A group of this year's Falat Project Volunteers

Since 1985, volunteers organized by the Stephen J. Falat Holiday Basket Project Committee have delivered holiday gift baskets (large, colorful shopping bags) filled with clothing, CDs, candy, toiletries and more, to local New York hospitals and AIDS organizations, to brighten the holidays of people living with AIDS. All merchandise is new and has been donated by corporations as well as individuals. Meet some of this years volunteers, who helped make this amazing project such a huge success:



James Crescent
Years Volunteering: 1st year

How did you get involved?
A friend, Ali Sharaf, who's been volunteering for years, told me about it.

What do you do when not volunteering your time?
Daydream, Yoga/Gym/Fitness, Audition, Listen to Music, Read, Watch TV- Stage- Film, Create, Write, Choreograph, Sing, Act, Work...

What is your favorite memory of volunteering?
Listening to the colorful characters

Anthony Morelli
Years Volunteering:
I started volunteering with the now 23 year old Falat Basket Project about 8 or maybe 9 years ago. Wow, I realize looking back that time has flown. The amount of “baskets” assembled has grown since its inception. In the short time I have been involved requests have increased by well over a thousand!

If you have been volunteering for years, what part do you enjoy the most that keeps bringing you back?
I keep coming back each year because of the amazing volunteers I meet. With the exception of a few folks such as coordinator of the packing process Greg Kayne that I have formed regular friendships with, I call most of the volunteers my “once a year friends” since I only get together with them the first two weeks of December each year when I come to Equity to work on the Falat Project. There are always new ‘friends’ joining us too. It is generally a festive time for everyone. It’s fulfilling to know our efforts help spread holiday cheer to those living with HIV and AIDS… and for me it’s nice to feel needed. I can’t afford to donate money or goods but I can donate my time. I have been fortunate that my performing work has given me the flexibility to join in.

How did you first get involved?
My domestic partner Ben McLaughlin started arranging his vacation time so he would have the month of December off and started giving the first two weeks of December to the Falat Project. When I met Ben in 1995 he was active with several volunteer projects including panel making workshops for the Names Project – AIDS Quilt. I was “young and in love” and eagerly joined in with the projects. I realized then just how fulfilling it can be. Still “youngish and in love” when Ben mentioned they could use extra hands with this project I joined in. The project now has become the official kick off to our holiday season every year.

What do you do when not volunteering?
My primary job is performing as an actor. I have had the opportunity to travel the US extensively doing regional, summer stock and touring theatre.

What is your favorite memory of volunteering?
I don’t have a specific memory to offer. We have volunteers from all walks of life. Everyone is so interesting. The older performers some who have retired have really captivating and hilarious stories of the stage stars and shows they worked on back in the supposed Golden age of Broadway. One important perspective I have gained from the tales they tell is that the business was not any easier on actors even then.

I also enjoy mentioning the members of “A Little Harmony” a chapter of the Barry Manilow fan club in the Tri-state New York, New Jersey area. They take on the responsibility of assembling the Falat Holiday Gift Baskets for children with and affected by HIV and AIDS. Dianne Eyerman spearheads an amazing team. Members of “A Little Harmony” raise money, canvas for, and collect donations of toys, etc. I am inspired by their dedication and effort.

Of course pictures of Mr. Manilow are hung in their room, (I remember the year they posted Barry’s tour schedule), and they keep his music playing throughout the day, adding a nice festive touch to their work area. And happily Barry has recorded a new Christmas CD!

Please share any funny stories or interesting facts about yourself:
Without sounding like a bio in a show program, I am an actor, singer and dancer, and play the ukulele. And I relish playing the music of the 1920s and 1930s. (“I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside” a tune from the early 1900s included in a British Music Hall Revue.)

In 2006 I ended an 18 year “run” as Baxter The Clown a skillful children’s party entertainer on Long Island and in the tri-state area. My appearing as Baxter was intended to be a temporary summer job to raise money for school. I never expected a run so long that children I had done shows for began hiring me for their children!

As for a personal hobby I have appeared in American and British Dollhouse and Miniatures magazines for my work with 1-inch scale doll houses and room interiors.

Dianne Eyerman
Years Volunteering: 12

If you have been volunteering for years, what part do you enjoy the most that keeps bringing you back?
Working at this project is really a two part enjoyment. Our volunteers have been, for the most part, the same “crew” since we started twelve years ago. The members of our “crew” are exceptional in their dedication annually to this project as well as the most sincere, compassionate, sensitive and hard working individuals. There is an all around aura of enjoyment that is felt each day that we work on preparing the baskets. Secondly, there is great enjoyment in what we do and who we provide for. Our baskets are exceptional in that they are individually prepared and with a record number of 3700 this year, the enjoyment of meeting that goal was exceptional in itself. More importantly, as told by the social workers that we communicate with from each hospital and facility, our baskets are very gratefully received by the men, women and children who receive them. The enjoyment, for each of us, is that enjoyment we may bring to those who are the recipients.

How did you get involved?
Back in 1997 as a member of A Little Harmony, a local Barry Manilow Fan Club, we were encouraged by the Manilow Fund for Health and Hope to become involved in a grass roots charity. The Fund encourages the local fan clubs around the country to participate in a charity where in some small way we make a difference. At that time, Barry and Bruce Sussman had just written a play called “Harmony” and, therefore, we felt a theater connection would be a great idea. I phoned Broadway Cares and spoke with a gentleman named John Fahey. John stated that there was a project through Actors Equity known as the Falat Baskets where he felt our local club could participate. We volunteered that year and together with Liz Boynes and Cathy Boynes, we have been a staple at the project since then in organizing the children’s basket each year. This year we organized 1,163 baskets for children with the help of fellow fans who traveled to the City to join in the making on different days.

What do you do when not volunteering?
I work as a Manager in a medical practice in New Jersey, Liz Boynes is a Human Resource Coordinator for FED-CAP in New York City and Cathy Boynes is employed by McGraw Hill as an Assistant Production Manager.

Rams Ess
Years Volunteering: 2

What part do you enjoy the most that keeps bringing you back?
Coming to NY and being part of the fun & love. I’m from LA.

How did you get involved?
Sandy Sprung

What do you do when not volunteering?
Full-time artist in Los Angeles. Stained glass art.

What is your favorite memory of volunteering?
The Party

Sandy Sprung
Years Volunteering: 5

What part do you enjoy the most that keeps bringing you back? Greg Kayne How did you get involved? Greg Kayne What do you do when not volunteering? Greg Kayne. No! Living in LA

What is your favorite memory of volunteering?
Seeing all the bags going on their way to help folks!

Please share any funny stories or interesting facts about yourself: Was a comedy writer (Married with Children) for TV and then I went straight.

Dodi Kenan
Years Volunteering: 1

How did you get involved?
Member of Equity & VITA Program

What do you do when not volunteering?
Actor

What is your favorite memory of volunteering?
All of the wonderful people

Please share any funny stories or interesting facts about yourself:
Just won the fruity as best actress in the Fresh Fruit Festival

Ali Sharaf
Years Volunteering: 8

What part do you enjoy the most that keeps bringing you back? It is the highlight of my Holiday season each year. Doing something for someone else. The holidays can be very depressing, a very glutiness holiday on all fronts, and to be able to do for others is what life should be all about. Especially for the Holidays.

How did you get involved?
Saw an ad in the Equity News Letter.

What do you do when not volunteering?
Actress

Lawrence Merritt
Years Volunteering: 6

What part do you enjoy the most that keeps bringing you back? Doing something good for others, and the sociability of friends.

How did you get involved?
By lucky happenstance

What do you do when not volunteering?
Actor/Singer

Ben McLaughlin
Years Volunteering: 10

What part do you enjoy the most that keeps bringing you back?
Giving back to both the union and people who need some happiness during the holidays

How did you get involved?
I had free time in December and wanted to continue my volunteer work with a new organization

What do you do when not volunteering?
I work for the Foundation Center. (foundationcenter.org)

What is your favorite memory of volunteering?
So many it’s hard to choose one

Please share any funny stories or interesting facts about yourself:
I have played Oscar the Grouch in SESAME STREET LIVE and Dangermouse, a British cartoon superhero

Pat Smouse
Years Volunteering: First year

How did you get involved? Cleon Byerly asked Yvonna Balfour who shamed me into it. (She says no she didn’t – not much).

What do you do when not volunteering?
Heal (broken wrist)

Caroline Crippen
Years Volunteering: 3

What part do you enjoy the most that keeps bringing you back?
The camaraderie and gossip

How did you get involved?
Friend of Greg Kayne, who hacked at me till I came

What do you do when not volunteering?
Writer and producer for events/videos for non-profits and corporations

Cleon Byerly
Years Volunteering: 1

What part do you enjoy the most that keeps bringing you back?
Making Curls on the candy bags

How did you get involved?
Greg Kayne asked me

What do you do when not volunteering?
LOAF

Austin Colyer
Years Volunteering: 23

What part do you enjoy the most that keeps bringing you back?
Gossiping!

How did you get involved?
In the beginning I was nosey and wanted to know what Steve was doing

What do you do when not volunteering?
Actor and Travel

Yvonna Balfour
Years Volunteering: 1

How did you get involved? Greg Kayne asked Cleon Byerly who asked me

What do you do when not volunteering?
CBS Early Show

Haileen Gray
Years Volunteering: 3

What part do you enjoy the most that keeps bringing you back?
The thought of giving back my retired time to something so important

How did you get involved?
My friend Lawrence Merrit told me about this worthy project

What do you do when not volunteering?
I go to the gym, read and walk a ton in the year





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