The Forsyth County News is compiling a list of holiday toy, food and other collection drives in the community. The information will appear regularly in the newspaper. To share your group’s information and increase awareness this holiday season, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at Forsyth County News, P.O. Box 210, Cumming, GA 30028.
As Thanksgiving approaches, the community’s sense of giving back is heightened.
And this year, organizers say, that need may be more pressing than ever.
Several local holiday collection efforts have started, and more are planned in the days and weeks ahead.
The following is a look at a handful of these community efforts:
Giving Tree for Kids
Children in need this holiday season can get help from the Holiday Giving Tree for Kids program.
Sponsored by the Forsyth County Family YMCA and United Way, the program is in its third year.
Jerry Dupree, program coordinator, said he expects thousands of children will need assistance this season.
“We had 2,500 last year and about 2,200 the year before,” he said. “With more people moving into the county and the economy still being down so much, I expect more than 2,500 this year.”
Families in need are being referred to the program through the school system and nonprofit organizations, Dupree said.
Families falling under certain income levels are eligible for holiday help.
Dupree said families interested in the program should contact the YMCA.
The program seeks community involvement as well. Sponsors are asked to spend between $75 and $100 per child.
Those interested will receive a child’s clothing sizes and a wish list of Christmas gifts. They are asked to shop for the child, spending equal amounts on clothing and wish list items.
“The priority is for clothing, but they can also purchase items off the child’s wish list,” Dupree said.
Those who would like to help but don’t have the time to go shopping for a child can give financially.
“Those monetary donations are very important because those funds are used to purchase items for children who don’t have sponsors,” Dupree said.
“About 50 percent of the kids end up not having sponsors, so we have to have money in hand to go purchase items for them.”
Volunteers are also needed to help organize items.
“We want to be able to help all these kids in need,” Dupree said.
Individuals, families and businesses are all asked to help out.
“Businesses end up being great sponsors,” Dupree said. “What better way to help out than putting that $300 or $400 or $500 that would go towards a big office party to helping kids?”
Anyone wishing to help the Holiday Giving Tree for Kids program should call the Forsyth County YMCA at (678) 341-6337. Checks can be mailed to Forsyth County Family YMCA, Attention HGTFK, 6050 Y Street, Cumming, GA 30040.
Give the gift of holiday meals to seniors with the Home-delivered Meal Holiday Gift Certificate Program.
Forsyth County Senior Services delivers the meals year-round to homebound seniors through its Meals on Wheels program, but the department actively seeks donations during the holidays, said director Shelley Johnson.
“We like to do this before Thanksgiving because a number of families talk about being thankful for what they have and how they can share at this time,” Johnson said.
Senior services hopes to deliver 4,000 meals this season, adding to last year’s total by about 500, she said.
“There has been increasing demand for our Meals on Wheels program, and we expect that need to only grow during the holiday season,” said Johnson, adding that the county’s senior population continues to be the fastest rising segment.
Those interested in participating may choose to provide meals for a day, week, month or year. The costs range from $3.41 for one meal and $17.05 for one week to $75.02 for one month and $887 for a year. All gifts are tax-deductible.
All meals delivered from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day will also include a special certificate to wish happy holidays from the meal provider.
The department also launches its angel tree program this month, in which people can purchase gifts for local seniors, many of whom do not have family members to visit.
“This is just a way for them to be remembered too,” Johnson said. “It’s really a lonely time of year if you don’t have anyone.”
Those gift requests can be picked up from any of the county’s three senior services facilities.
Checks can be made payable to Forsyth County Senior Services, Holiday Gift Certificate Program and may be mailed or delivered to: Forsyth County Senior Services, 595 Dahlonega Hwy., Cumming, GA 30040.
Call Senior Services at (770) 781-2178 for more information.
Aerial’s House toy collection
The Forsyth County Fire Department recently kicked off its ninth annual Aerial’s House toy collection for children in need.
“Through the years, and thanks to the generous support of this community, the Aerial’s House toy collection has helped brighten the holiday season for many local children,” said Fire Chief Danny Bowman. “It truly is something our fire department personnel look forward to each and every year.”
New, unwrapped toys are being collected at Forsyth County fire stations and the department’s headquarters at 3520 Settingdown Road.
Later this month, toys may also be dropped off under the Christmas tree in the lobby of the Forsyth County Administration Building, 110 East Main St. in downtown Cumming.
For more information about Aerial’s House, call (770) 781-2180, Ext. 0. For information about the distribution of toys collected through the organization, call (678) 341-6337.
Staff Writers Julie Arrington and Alyssa LaRenzie contributed to this report.