Charity drives gearing up to make holidays happier for needy families

September 22, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

The volunteer coordinator for Human Services Inc. and Neighbors in Need yesterday gave the Tourism Association a shopping list to make Thanksgiving fuller and Christmas merrier for needy families.

During the association meeting at Mayberry Sales Center in Finksburg, Barbara Brown said she is "gearing up" for an increase in families who need holiday help.

"We are preparing for even greater numbers this year, at least 200 more families," Ms. Brown said.

She said she expects that the county will respond. "It is amazing how many calls we have already gotten from people who want to adopt families for the holidays," she said.

The county's Neighbors in Need program helped 1,027 families during the 1992 holiday season. Individuals, businesses or community groups adopted more than 600 of those families.

Adoptions begin again Oct. 18 and continue through Dec. 9.

"Every name we get is screened for need," said Ms. Brown. "It might be a working family who is struggling and unable to give their kids a Christmas."

In addition to food and gifts, Ms. Brown said many families ask for items they can't purchase with food stamps.

"About 50 percent ask us for laundry and dish detergent," she said.

The Tourism Association collected paper products from members last year and plans to repeat that drive in 1993.

"We are in the hospitality business," said Joan Meekins, director of the county Office of Tourism. "By participating in the Neighbors in Need, we are doing our part to continue hospitality all year long and sending a strong message of community involvement."

Ms. Brown said the greatest needs are "new items and food for donations, but we don't turn anything away."

"Almost anything," she said, smiling. She noted that processing and storing last year's donation of 200 live turkeys cost more than purchasing frozen birds from the grocery.

"We are returning to the voucher system," she said with a laugh.

Any organization planning a food drive for the program should schedule it in November.

"We need to know what foods we will have by Dec. 1," she said.

"That will give us an idea of what we have to solicit or purchase."

The program will again have an angel tree with children's and seniors' gift wishes in Cranberry Mall, and will collect gifts there beginning Nov. 8.

Organizers also plan to open a "store" where "shoppers" can make last-minute selections from tables of donated items from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18.

"It will be a neat volunteer opportunity," she said.

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