WESTMINSTER — Businesses, churches, schools, community groups and individuals came together this year to help almost 900 needy families celebrate Christmas through a countywide charity drive.
"Someone said, 'It's so depressing,' " said Lynda Gainor, deputy director of Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., which coordinates the Neighbors in Need program.
"But look how depressing it would be if no one helped."
Help poured in this year through donations of clothes, cornflakes, calculators, curling irons, coloring books -- almost anything you would find in a department store.
In fact, a 10,000-square-foot room at 10 Distillery Drive filled up quickly with donations the past two weeks. Volunteers for Neighbors in Need have been working since last week to sort and package the foods and gifts.
HSP coordinates the Neighbors in Need program -- a partnership with churches, businesses and other community groups. HSP acts as a clearinghouse for the donations, Gainor said.
Families registered to receive gifts will begin pickingthem up today, she said.
Last year, 750 families were assisted bythe program. This year, the need was greater because the recession has thrown more people out of work, she said.
Donations "will just keep pouring in and pouring out," she said.
On Sunday, 125 volunteers from Sunday school classes, a private school, a Girl Scout troop,churches and other groups spent the day working, Gainor said.
They followed lists the families filled out telling what size clothing they wear, what they need for their homes and what gifts their children would like.
Row after row of tables fill half of the brightly lighted room. Boxes with family names neatly lettered in black marker on the left corner are stacked on top and filled with food. Under the table are sturdy plastic bags filled with gifts; the bags are gray sothe children can't see what they're getting.
"As much as possible, we try to match what they want," Gainor said. "When you're packing for a stranger it's hard."
The result is amazingly personal for the number of families served. Children who wanted stuffed dinosaur toys got them. Girls who wanted Barbie dolls got them. Adults who neededgloves and hats got them.
Londontown Corp. in Eldersburg donated about 60 boxes of knit gloves, hats, scarves and head warmers, Gainorsaid.
James F. Haneschlager, vice president for human resources, said the company had excess merchandise.
"We try to (donate) based on the need," he said.
The county Chamber of Commerce increased its donations this year, said Terri Meushaw and Joyce Miller, who helped coordinate the group's efforts.
Last year, the group placed about 20 boxes in county businesses to collect donations; this year, there were about 50 boxes, Meushaw said.
Muller said, "The boxes I picked up were full, and that signifies to me there is a caring community."
Emilie Durham of Hampstead and her husband, Norman, were helping to sort donations this week.
"It's amazing how organized this is. There's a lot of help available for people who need it," she said.
Families requesting help must answer several questions on a form. On one, a Sykesville woman asked for food and gifts for her husband, their two sons and another man who lives with them. In response to the question, "What does your family like to do?" she wrote: "Give back any help we can in the future . . . for the help you give to us."
Donations still are being accepted at 10 Distillery Drive. Money may be sent to HSP, P.O. Box 489, Westminster, 21158.