To meet the needs of more than 2,400 individuals, Bartow Christmas Coalition is accepting toys and food donations at its Toy Store through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Formed in the early 1990s, the nonprofit assisted about 600 families with nonperishable food items and toys in 2010. With each annual campaign typically recording about a 10 percent increase in recipients, the drive's organizers expect to serve 680 families -- 668 girls and 644 boys -- and 132 senior adults this year.
"We just opened up for our donations on [Monday] and because of the weather, inclement weather, it was very slow," said Beverly Shaw, coordinator for Bartow Christmas' Toy Store. "We do have a need for food, everything that we put in a grocery bag, we have a need for that. And every age group, starting from infants all the way to [teenagers], we have a need for all the toys."
If donations allow, each pre-qualified family is going to receive nonperishable food items, a gift card and two toys for each child, newborn to 14. A gift card and food items also are being presented to each senior adult, 65 and older. The holiday items are going to be distributed Dec. 5 to 8 at the organization's Toy Store in the Cartersville Plaza shopping center on Nelson Street.
"Especially with the economy the way it is, a lot of the families are stating that they just didn't know how they were going to make ends meet or just to make the children feel not left out with not having toys," Shaw said. "So they depend on Bartow Christmas being a big part of their Christmas this year, otherwise they wouldn't have [one]."
For more information about the Bartow Christmas Coalition, call 770-386-3399 or visit www.bartowchristmas.org.
BARTOW COUNTY DFCS
While the Bartow Christmas Coalition currently is accepting donations, Bartow County Department of Family & Children Services employees are busy trying to fulfill the wishes of nearly 300 children in state custody through the Silent Santa program.
Citing an increase of teenagers in state custody in the past year, LeeAnn Henson -- program associate for Bartow County DFCS' foster care unit -- said they are in need of volunteers to sponsor older children.
"I would say that at least 75 percent to 80 percent of the children have already been sponsored," Henson said. "And the other 25 [percent] are teenagers. So I'm in desperate need of people that could help us out with getting a wish list and maybe purchasing some of the items that's on the child's wish list for Christmas.
"A lot of the children, even these teenagers -- it's surprising that there's a lot of teenagers that come into care that are so excited about filling out a wish list because they've never done it. They've never sat on Santa's lap and told him want they wanted. Of course they've out grown that, but yet still they're like, 'You mean I can fill this out and I'll actually get something.' That's their attitude. Some of these children have not had a Christmas. They're 13, 14 and 15 and up [and] they've not had a Christmas. And it's just unthinkable that a child that age has never woke up on Christmas morning and had gifts under a Christmas tree. It just boggles my mind that that can happen."
Community sponsors who participate in the Silent Santa program receive a wish list that includes information like the child's first name, age, gender, favorite color, clothing sizes and desired toys. While individuals are not required to purchase every item the child requests, they are encouraged to select the gifts with care, as if they are shopping for their own child.
Once purchased, gifts should be returned to DFCS -- 47 Brook Drive in Cartersville -- unwrapped by Dec. 12.
In addition to sponsoring a child, financial donations also are needed for a Silent Santa fund that is used to purchase last minute gifts and provide extracurricular outings for children during the year, such as ballet lessons and athletic camps.
More details about the Silent Santa program can be obtained by calling Henson at 770-387-3736.
With its Angel Tree program in full swing, the local Salvation Army is encouraging the public to participate in its annual toy campaign. This year, the Cartersville nonprofit is trying to meet the needs of 350 families and 1,000 children.
To take part in the program, donors need to select an "Angel" ornament, which contains a child's first name and age and several suggested gifts. While many of the artificial trees are installed at area churches and companies, some of the sites are open to the public -- SunTrust banks, Cracker Barrels and Cartersville's downtown train depot. Each anonymous donor is encouraged to purchase three toys and deliver them unwrapped by Dec. 17 to the tree location or The Salvation Army at 16 Felton Place or 17 Apex Drive.
Referring to the recipients' needs, Salvation Army Capt. Nancy Fuller said due to the economy, families who are financially struggling are faced with difficult choices, such as either paying utility bills or purchasing a Christmas gift for their child.
"[These families are] really struggling. ... A Barbie doll is more than what some of them can afford right now," Fuller said. "They just don't have the funds. They've got mortgage payments. They've got electricity payments and they've been without a job for a couple of months now. So it's adding up."
Based on previous drives, Fuller believes the public will once again rally around their Angel Tree program.
"I just appreciate the community's help," she said. "They've never let us down and I expect them to come through again this year. It's a wonderful community and they're there to help and I appreciate it very much."
To participate in The Salvation Army's Angel Tree offering, call 770-387-9955.
TOYS FOR TOTS
Due to the economic downturn, Richard Goodson -- Bartow County assistant coordinator for the Toys for Tots campaign -- anticipates the demand for Christmas assistance to be greater this holiday season.
"The need is so much this year because of the unemployment. People have lost their jobs and [are] losing their homes," Goodson told The Daily Tribune News last month. "Christmas is almost a thing of the past for people that are living, trying to make [ends] meet.
"Every child should have a toy Christmas morning, someway, somehow. And as long as Toys for Tots are here, we will make sure every kid that comes to us from Bartow County will have a toy."
To contribute, individuals can drop off toys at more than 60 collection boxes throughout the county. Donors need to make sure the containers are marked "Bartow County," with Goodson and Royce Coker's names and phone numbers to ensure the items remain in Bartow.
Once collected, the toys for newborns to 13-year-olds will be dispersed to pre-qualified families Dec. 17 at Georgia Bone & Joint Surgeons, 15 Medical Drive. Along with donating toys, the public also can support this endeavor by attending fundraisers, such as the Christmas Concert on Sunday. At the benefit, the Roman Festival Brass -- a semi-professional brass band -- will perform at 3:30 p.m. at Cassville Baptist Church, 1663 Cassville Road in Cartersville. Admission to the event is a new, unwrapped toy that will support Bartow Toys for Tots.
While this operation supports the Adairsville community's Toys for Tots campaign, Goodson said they are different offerings. Further details about Adairsville's Toys for Tots drive can be obtained by calling Adairsville Church of God at 770-773-3264. The Adairsville campaign will start signing up applicants Thursday and distribute toys at the Adairsville Church of God Dec. 17.