There’s just over a week left to vote in the Beautiful Baby Contest and it’s time to introduce in more detail the four local non-profit organizations that will share voting proceeds.

Project Love has given to the North East community for over 20 years and its volunteers are dedicated to help struggling parents provide the most basic of luxuries to their children at Christmastime: a Christmas gift.

Project Love President Esther Pearsall said in 1990 the group provided Christmas gifts to approximately 75 children. In 2010, gifts were provided to over 300 children. With the current state of the economy, she said, the number of needy children in 2011 is expected to rise. “Some of the children we help may very well be some of the cute babies in your contest!” Pearsall wrote in her essay to the News-Journal.

The Salvation Army supplied many toys in the past but unfortunately can no longer assist, so Project Love must rely on local donations.

North East Arts Council conducts a Kids’ Art Club in addition to its many classes, workshops and children’s programming. Rebecca Weinheimer, Programming Director for NEAC, said the Kids’ Art Club is the most rapidly growing program.

Every month over 40 school-aged students attend an afternoon of hands-on arts education led by arts educator Christine French. The Kids’ Art Club is a free program offered to the community with partial costs historically paid for by the Schuster Fund. Since enrollment has recently increased by over 50 percent, Weinheimer said the NEAC is seeking other ways to cover the costs of implementing the program.

“The North East Arts Council would be honored to benefit from the beautiful babies as a way of creating even more beauty in our community!” said Weinheimer.

Downtown North East, Inc. is another non-profit run by volunteers from the community. Their goal is to revitalize downtown North East and help make it an even better place to live, work, play and shop.

Several projects and events spearheaded by DNE have made their way into North East, from the grape banners on downtown light poles to the flower baskets on parking meters – a project which began many years ago by dedicated members of the North East Woman’s Club to the Lovin’ Downtown Wine & Food Festival, Wine Fest Stride ‘n Stomp 5k run/walk and staffing the Gibson Park wine tent during Wine Fest.

DNE also renovated the former Freedom Shrine in Gibson Park and transformed it into an informational kiosk for locals and visitors alike. The Farmer’s Market downtown has expanded with the help of DNE volunteers and this summer DNE hosted its first Family Movie Night in Heard Park.

With a share of the Beautiful Baby Contest proceeds, DNE will help cover promotional costs of Sugar Plum Weekend and draw visitors to North East from surrounding areas.

The North East Fire Department Scuba & Rescue Team is responsible for storage and partial maintenance of East Erie County Marine 1, a vessel which was acquired last year for use by east Erie County fire departments along the lakeshore.

The rescue boat was put into service in spring 2011 and volunteers of North East’s Fuller Hose Company #1 and Crescent Hose Company #2 responded to several water rescues out of North East Marina. The volunteers also responded to one of two massive body search and recovery missions at Presque Isle this summer.

The vessel is available from Memorial Day to Labor Day to respond to medical emergencies on the water.

Voting in the Beautiful Baby Contest ends at noon on Tues. Nov. 8. 

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