WESTMINSTER — Christmas will be merrier for Susan Burker and her sons, Mark, 5, and Scott, 3, thanks to the Neighbors in Need program.
This year, Burker, 30, and her sons were one of 894 Carroll families who received food, gifts and clothing donated by individuals, organizations, businesses and agencies.
"This is the first year that I have come here," said Burker, a single parent. "I am really surprised at the amount of items people have donated -- especially the food."
Last Wednesday, 497 families came to the old Barrel House at 10 Distillery Drive to receive boxes offood, a bag filled with clothing and new toys, and the chance to browse through an assortment of used toys.
For the last nine years, the program has encouraged families, organizations and businesses to adopt a needy family during the holiday season.
Needy families are identified through referrals from churches, schools, organizations, Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc. and the county Department of Social Services.
"The families that came here on Wednesday were those families who were not adopted by the community," said LyndaGainor, deputy director of HSP, which coordinates Neighbors in Need."We had 394 needy families which were adopted by people in the community this year."
Those families not adopted were invited to pick up their prepacked food, clothing and toys.
On Dec. 9, volunteers and HSP staff began setting up tables and filling boxes and bags with community donations and specially purchased items.
Each family received gloves and hats for children, as well as coloring books, crayons, books and a board game, Gainor said.
"What we tried to do was supply clothing for each family member and choose gifts that have beenrequested," she said. "Each food box was packed for a family of fourand had the same amount of everything."
Each family received a voucher for either a turkey or chicken, eggs, milk and bread from Weis Markets in Westminster.
Gainor said food, clothing and gifts for afamily of four cost about $300.
June Crumbie, 37, has received assistance through Neighbors in Need for the last several years and is thankful for the program.
"I think this is great," said the Westminster resident, who works part-time for the Carroll County Association for Retarded Citizens Inc. "We are in a low-income bracket, and I need the help."
Crumbie, who is married and has two children, said that when she is able, she contributes to Neighbors in Need through her church, as do other members of her family.
Last year's Neighbors in Need program helped 765 families.
"The program has grown eachyear, both in the amount of people who have asked for help and also those who are making the donations," Gainor explained. "Because of the state of the economy, we originally thought that we would have about 1,000 families who would need assistance this year."
With two days left before Christmas, Gainor said it is likely their prediction will be realized.
"This program will officially end on Tuesday," she said. "People can continue to contribute money to the program untilthat time.
"The money we receive will be used to help pay the bills we have incurred for the grocery vouchers."
Those interested inmaking a donation should contact Neighbors in Need at 857-2999.