SPIRIT OF THE SEASON: Christmas programs still seeking help to assist families in need

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HANCOCK COUNTY — Santa and the Grinch went head to head at the Greenfield Walmart on Saturday, Nov. 20, when they took part in a “ring off” to see who could raise the most money for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign.

The Grinch edged out jolly old St. Nick, but only by $60 or so. Together the two raised $750 between 4-8 p.m. as the organization’s Red Kettle campaign kicked off for the season.

“It makes such a big difference to have a ringer at the kettles,” said Salvation Army volunteer Jim Peters.

“In the two hours before the Grinch and Santa were there, we had a ringer at one end who got about $175, while the unmanned kettle at the other end got about $3. So it really makes a big difference to have someone there ringing the bell,” he said.

More “ring off” challenges are planned. The Fortville police and fire departments will compete during the town’s Winterfest on Dec. 4.

The money raised in each year’s Red Kettle Campaign goes toward supporting local families who could use a little extra help this holiday season.

A number of other Hancock County charities share similar missions each year, and most of them are ramping up now. Following is a list of organizations and how the public can help them:

Gift Lift

The mission: Mental Health Partners of Hancock County will provide gifts of clothing or essential household items to isolated senior citizens and residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Each person served by the program will receive a box containing personal care items.

What’s needed: Money, volunteers and personal care items, such as toothbrushes and hairbrushes.

Where the donations go: Officials from Mental Health Partners deliver gifts to all recipients, many of whom live in group homes or assisted-living facilities, organizers said.

How to get involved: Donations can be dropped off to the Mental Health Partners office at the Memorial Building, 98 E. North St., Suite 204, Greenfield, during office hours, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. More information is available by calling office at 317-462-2877. Gift requests are still available; the gifts will be distributed Dec. 21.

Hancock County Christmas Connection

The mission: The Greenfield-Central school corporation and several nonprofits work together to match families in need with individual sponsors or community resources. Those organizations include: Toys for Tots of Hancock County; Love In the Name of Christ (Love INC) of Greater Hancock County; Santa’s Helpers; and the Greenfield police and Hancock County sheriff’s departments. The Landing and Interlocal Community Action Program are also somewhat involved.

What’s needed: Families are being matched through cooperation between the schools and Love INC, but members of the public may still help by donating gift cards for gasoline, grocery stores or restaurants.

Where the donations go: Any donations will be put toward helping qualifying families provide Christmas gifts to their children.

How to get involved:While the Christmas Connection application period has ended, families may still contact their school social worker, counselor, case manager or Love INC to inquire about possible assistance.

Healthy Families will also be accepting applications from families involved in its services. Families with young children not yet in school or enrolled with Healthy Families should contact Love INC at 317-468-6300.

More information also is available by contacting Terry Miller, social worker at Weston Elementary School, at 317-462-1492.

Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign

The mission: The Red Kettle Campaign is The Salvation Army’s only fundraiser. Volunteer bell-ringers take up posts outside storefronts in Greenfield and New Palestine, spreading holiday cheer and seeking donations from passers-by.

What’s needed: Money, volunteers.

Where the donations go: All money collected in Hancock County stays in Hancock County, organizers said. About 70% of the donations are used to assist individuals and families in financial emergencies; 20% is used to fund local nursing home programs, children’s summer camps and school supplies distributions; and the remaining 10% covers operational costs.

How to get involved: Bell-ringers will be stationed in front of the Greenfield Kroger and Walmart stores as well as Needler’s Fresh Market in New Palestine until Christmas Eve. To become a bell-ringer, visit registertoring.com. Volunteers commit to two-hour shifts, with weekend and weekday opportunities available.

Santa’s Helpers

The mission: Santa’s Helpers is operated locally by Greenfield Sertoma, a community service organization. Members of the group round up donations to help families in need purchase children’s clothing.

What’s needed: Money

Where the donations go: Families are referred to the program by Hancock County Christmas Connection agencies. Sertoma draws from is club sponsorship fund to cover the overhead costs of the Santa’s Helpers program, so 100% of donations go to families in need. Santa’s Helpers will provide at least $125 per child this year.

Parents of children referred to Santa’s Helpers by the Hancock County Christmas Connection will receive letters indicating directions for them to shop for clothing needs for their children at Walmart.

How to get involved: Individuals can mail donations to: Santa’s Helpers, P.O. Box 43, Greenfield, IN 46140.

Toys for Tots

The mission: Toys for Tots raises funds to provide toys to children whose families can’t afford to spend money on gifts. The organization distributes the items to families in the days leading up to Christmas.

What’s needed: New toys, money.

Where the donations go: Families who qualify receive age-appropriate gifts to give to their children.

How to get involved: Dozens of local businesses, schools and churches have boxes to collect donations. For more information, contact Aleesha Broadus at 317-462-4491, ext. 41206.

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