CALLING ALL SANTAS: Holiday gift-giving campaign ramping up at a time of increasing need for families

Greenfield Police Officer Ross Yoder plays Santa for a child in the Greenfield Police Department's Cops 4 Kids program in 2019. GPD is now planning this year's program.(Tom Russo | Daily Reporter) File photo

HANCOCK COUNTY — If ever there was a time to spread some holiday good will, it’s 2020.

Christmas Connection is a collaboration of local support organizations that band together to assist families in need at the holidays, with gifts of food, clothing, toys, toiletries and other necessities. Its efforts are ramping up this week.

Hancock County families with school-age children are encouraged to reach out to their youngest child’s school counselor as soon as possible to start the application process.

“With Hancock County organizations working collaboratively, families with children can be matched to individual sponsors or community resources with the goal of serving every family in need this holiday season,” said Debra Weber, interim executive director at Love INC.

A number of organizations collaborate to make sure all the local needs are filled, including: Love INC; Toys for Tots; Santa’s Helpers; Healthy Families; the Hancock County Department of Child Services; local police agencies; and all four Hancock County school corporations.

Christmas Connection, which was started three years ago, is the umbrella organization that ties together participating agencies.

Sponsor groups and individuals are also being sought to help cover the needs of Hancock County families, Christmas Connection coordinator Terry Miller said.

Miller is one of the many collaborators who helps match families to sponsor groups or community resources, with the goal of serving every Hancock County family in need this holiday season.

“We’re all working together to help as many families as we can, without any families receiving more than one assistance,” said Miller, a social worker for the Greenfield-Central schools.

Families in need of extra assistance at the holidays are encouraged to reach out early for help.

While families with school-age children should contact their kids’ schools, families with children not yet in school — and who are not connected with Healthy Families — are asked to contact Love INC in Greenfield.

“Each agency or group has a point person, and we all talk to each other through the holiday season,” said Miller, who added the goal is to help as many individuals as possible without overlapping resources.

The county was previously served by United Christmas Service, which was facilitated by United Way of Central Indiana, but the program was discontinued three years ago.

Christmas Connection was created to continue those efforts.

“We knew there were families who were in need of assistance, and we also knew we were going to have to work together to get the job done,” Miller said.

Families in need rely not only on the partner organizations, but on individual sponsor groups throughout the county to meet the demand.

“Sponsor groups are those businesses and churches and families and individuals who feel like they can support a family or more than one family through the Christmas season,” said Miller, who added that a Greenfield church has already reached out, offering to help up to 30 kids.

Miller encourages families, friends, churches and club members and co-workers to band together to create a sponsor group this year. Groups should reach out to Christmas Connections, which will match them with a family or families in need.

All sponsoring individuals and groups will be given contact and other relevant information about the families with whom they have been matched before Thanksgiving.

Miller said matching families with resources needed around the holidays is a fulfilling role, for both herself and everyone else involved.

“I have empathy for parents who want to provide for their children, and for whatever reason aren’t able to. It’s a great feeling being able to help,” she said.

Miler encourages families seeking assistance to reach out as soon as possible. Application deadlines vary from agency to agency.

Those families who have children enrolled in the Children’s Bureau, Healthy Families, Interlocal Community Action Program or the Department of Child Services foster care program may contact those agencies for further information.

The Greenfield Police Department and Hancock County Sheriff’s Department are also accepting applications from families in need for their shop-with-a-cop programs.

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Hancock County Christmas Connection is once again connecting a number of organizations and support groups that want to support families in need this holiday season.

For more information on how to get involved as a support group, call Christmas Connection at 317-462-1492.

Families with children in school should contact their youngest child’s school counselor by Nov. 13 to apply for assistance.

Individuals in need can also reach out to the following agencies, although families should not receive assistance from more than one organization:

Children’s Bureau, Inc.: 765-643-8022

Department of Child Services, foster care division: 317-467-6360

Greenfield Police Department’s Cops 4 Kids: 317-477-4410

Hancock County Sheriff’s Department’s Shop with a Deputy: 317-477-1147

Healthy Families: 317-467-1236

Interlocal Community Action Program: 317-462-2557

Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen: 317-462-9900

Love, INC: 317-468-6300

Santa’s Helpers, Sertoma Club of Greenfield: 317-902-8109

Toys for Tots: 317-462-4491