“They are a nonprofit agency, and when they say they have specialized foster children, they’re talking about medically and emotionally fragile children,” said Meritan Stepping Stones Case Manager/Intern Angela James, about the organization. “[We are] a little different from [the Department of Family & Children Services] but we get a lot of referrals from DFCS. But those are children that can be placed pretty quickly. These children have medical problems. They have behavior problems, certain diagnoses from the therapists, so they need a different type of home and that’s what Meritan does is specialized care.”
To participate in the nonprofit’s campaign, area residents can select an angel adorning the Christmas tree at Swheat Market Deli, 5 E. Main St. in Cartersville. Along with the children’s first names, the ornaments contain their ages and desired presents. Once purchased, the gifts — totaling $50 to $75 — need to be delivered to Meritan Stepping Stones, 920-A N. Tennessee St. in Cartersville.
Along with donating gifts, area residents also can sponsor a child for Christmas, by making a donation of $10, $25 or $50.
“[These gifts make] a huge impact because, unfortunately, we all know a foster care child moves from one home to another home to another home,” James said. “Things are left behind. They’re lucky if they just get to move their clothes a lot of times.
“They’re leaving behind things and they’re losing things and they’re spread out over everywhere.When they get what they want for Christmas, of course, it will make them happy but it’s their way of at least trying to have a ... family experience.”
Like Meritan Stepping Stones, Bartow Christmas Coalition also is seeking the community’s assistance to ensure the success of its annual toy drive.
Formed in 1992, the nonprofit assisted 2,553 people with nonperishable food items and toys in 2011. With each annual campaign typically recording a 10 percent increase in recipients, Bartow Christmas Coalition organizers are planning to serve more than 2,800 people this season.
Bartow residents will have one more opportunity to enroll in the Bartow Christmas campaign. On Tuesday and Wednesday from 1 to 5 p.m., sign-ups will be conducted at two locations: Bartow Christmas Toy Store, 222 Nelson St. in Cartersville, 770-386-3399; and North Bartow Community Services, 2397 Hall Station Road in Adairsville, 770-773-3812.
Applicants must provide a driver’s license or picture ID of the head of household; Social Security card for each family member or tax return with Social Security numbers; proof of household income; and a document, such as a utility bill, to verify street address — no P.O. boxes accepted.
“We just felt like with so many ... phone calls that we would go ahead and extend our [registration period] and see how many people we can reach,” said Melissa Porter, president of the Bartow Christmas Coalition. “[The applicants are faced with] a little bit of everything — a combination [of different factors] — but a lot of it is economic [related].”
If donations allow, each qualified family will receive nonperishable food items, a gift card and two toys for each child, newborn to 14. A gift card and food items also will be presented to each senior adult, 62 and older during the distribution — Dec. 10 to 13 at the organization’s Toy Store.
The community can assist Bartow Christmas’ efforts by contributing financially or bringing items to the nonprofit’s Toy Store Monday to Friday — starting Nov. 26 — from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“It’s absolutely a community effort to keep this organization going,” Porter said “There’s so many different people that [have helped], that have come through. We have moms that bring kids to help and people not giving to each other on their normal Christmas to give to others. There’s just so many different scenarios.
“... I think the biggest thing [that stands out] is a lot of times, we don’t realize it’s our neighbors and it’s our families. [It is] the people close to us [that] it can touch. I think that every child should wake up Christmas morning and have something under the tree.”
For more information about the Bartow Christmas Coalition, call 770-386-3399 or visit its Facebook page. Further details about Meritan Stepping Stones can be obtained by calling 770-387-9003 or visiting www.meritan.org.