GREENFIELD — Christmas is just two weeks away, and local holiday charities are hoping your last-minute shopping will include a gift or two for someone in need.
This is the final week to give to most Hancock County holiday assistance programs and several are feeling the pinch. Mental Health America Gift Lift, United Way United Christmas Service and Toys for Tots are all still accepting last-minute donations to help meet the needs of families struggling to put both food and gifts on the table this year.
One of the county’s longest-running holiday assistance programs, Gift Lift, still has dozens of gift requests that need to be filled and time is running out fast.
“There are so many tags left on the Wal-Mart tree,” said Kara Harrison, MHA executive director.
Harrison said the last-minute addition of an 18th participating facility, means there are about 50 outstanding gift requests left. Individuals’ requests are written on tags and hung on a Christmas tree just outside the entrance to Subway restaurant inside Greenfield Wal-Mart. Shoppers can take a tag, shop for the requested gift at the store and leave the gift and tag in a box next to the tree for pick-up.
Gifts need to be purchased this week, Harrison said, to give volunteers time to wrap and deliver them.
MHA is also running low on several items for the personal care boxes that accompany each gift. This year, MHA is putting together about 500 personal care boxes. Harrison said she is running low on women’s deodorant, hand sanitizer, shampoo, combs, body wash and small packages of facial tissue, among other things. Harrison said gifts will begin to go out at the end of the week. She’s hoping to have all of her clients’ requested gifts and personal care items in by Thursday.
Gift Lift identifies and provides gifts for developmentally disabled, chronically mentally ill and isolated seniors in the county who may not have someone to provide them with gifts during the holiday season.
Jill Null, MHA board member and Gift Lift chair, said the holiday season can be especially hard for this population.
“We need to take a little extra care of each other during Christmastime,” Null said.
United Christmas Service, the county’s largest holiday assistance program, provides gifts for low-income families with school-age children. Terry Miller, program coordinator for the Greenfield-Central School System said the neediest families are matched with donors who “adopt” them for the holidays and purchase gifts from supplied Christmas lists. All other qualifying families are provided for through monetary donations or referred to partner programs.
“All of the families who were… most in need have all been adopted by a donor group,” she said. “That’s good news.”
While all of the county’s neediest families have been matched with donors to “adopt” them this year, total monetary donations across the six-county region that support the rest of the families are down.
United Way of Central Indiana, the organization behind UCS, still needs to raise about $350,000 by Dec. 19 so that all 7,100 families get some kind of holiday assistance. In a recent news release, UWCI said it giving is running about $64,000 behind the same time last year. The organization is pleading for donors to make a monetary contribution online at uwci.org/ucs. UWCI verifies that participants in United Christmas Service are not being served by any other holiday assistance programs, so donations to UCS are guaranteed to help a family in need.
Toys for Tots, one of the partner programs that UCS refers families to, is also wrapping up its collections this week. Chairman Dick Jefford said most of the donation boxes have been collected, but new, unwrapped toys can still be donated this Friday at Trinity Park United Methodist Church. Toys for Tots donation boxes will be out at the Greenfield Community Christmas Celebration Concert at 7 p.m. Friday. Cost is $5 per individual and $10 per family.
Jefford said collections have been going well, but he expects there are more people who are needy this year.
“I’ve not ever received this many phone calls,” Jefford said, of the requests for participation.
Toys for Tots distribution will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.