December 11, 2017 11:22:37 AM
Of the 110 local families in Adopt-a-Family, the United Way of Lowndes County's venture to provide Christmas presents for needy families, only five still need businesses to purchase their Christmas gifts.
It sounds good for the 105 families who are taken care of, but that's not how Renee Sanders, United Way's Volunteer Center director, sees it.
"That's five mothers I have to call," she said.
The families involved in the program have all recently gone through a life-changing circumstance -- such as the loss of a job, illness, death or loss of a home in some natural disaster like fire -- and are recommended for the program by local agencies, pastors or teachers, Sanders said. None of them are signed up for toy drives held by other charitable agencies.
"They don't have a fallback," Sanders said. "If they don't get adopted by United Way, they don't get a Christmas."
She is starting to break the families up into individuals to ensure at least children can get toys, she said. Businesses and individuals who want to buy Christmas presents for those children or their entire families can still contact Sanders at [email protected] or call her at either 662-328-0943 or 662-570-9045.
For those who can't buy toys, Sanders said she needs volunteers to wrap gifts. It takes about 90 minutes to wrap the presents for one family, she said. She also needs donations of boxes, wrapping paper, scissors and tape.
The deadline for gifts is Dec. 18.
At the Salvation Army in Columbus, Lt. Jennifer Graham said there are still 10 angels from the Angel Tree which need to be adopted -- angels representing children in need throughout the community. The deadline is 6 p.m. Wednesday.
While Salvation Army can purchase toys for the unadopted angels, Graham said, she prefers members of the community to make the purchases because they generally go all-out when shopping, purchasing lots of toys and making sure to buy what kids really like.
"They pour their heart into that angel," she said.
Those wishing to purchase toys for an angel can swing by Salvation Army to pick one up or email Graham at [email protected]
Otherwise the Angel Tree is going well, she said. Shoppers should drop off their toys and clothes for the angels by Wednesday at the Salvation Army, Graham said.
Salvation Army also runs the kettle drive every year, which sees volunteers in Santa hats ringing bells and collecting donations for kettles outside businesses. Graham said the deadline for that drive is Dec. 23.
However, the drive is about 40 percent behind its goal, which this year is $80,000, Graham said. She needs more volunteers and businesses to sponsor kettles.
Businesses which want to sponsor a kettle can donate $500 or more and have rotating shifts of volunteers from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. to ring bells and collect donations.
Meanwhile, the deadline for toys and bikes for the Citywide Toy Drive 5 p.m. Tuesday, said Columbus Police Department Community Relations Officer Rhonda Sanders, who organizes the drive every year in conjunction with CPD's Benefit Fund Committee.
Using money raised from the CPD's Haunted House in October, the Benefit Committee has purchased 100 bikes, 50 of which still need a sponsor, Rhonda Sanders said. To sponsor a bike, businesses or individuals can go to BankFirst on Main Street and write a personalized message to children for $50.
"When I was a kid, I had a coach who gave me a saying that inspired me my whole life," she said. "... She would tell me, 'Winners never quit and quitters never win.'"
She wants bike sponsors to write similar messages, whether personalized, from the Bible or common inspirational sayings.
Whatever money the Benefit Committee has left over from Haunted House and from the bike sponsorships goes to other toys for the toy drive. Schools in the Columbus Municipal School District are holding competitions to see which school can collect the most toys, Rhonda Sanders said, and the public can drop off new toys for the drive at BankFirst, any Cadence Bank location, the schools or CPD. Rhonda Sanders said she particularly wants toys like sports equipment, art supplies and new books.
Distribution of the toys and bikes will be Thursday.
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