December 22, 2009 10:36:00 AM
Jason Browne - [email protected]
It''s not exactly a Christmas miracle, but in tough times the United Way''s Adopt-A-Family program qualifies as a Christmas success.
Thirty-three families signed-up with the United Way of Lowndes County, and 33 families were adopted. In all, the program garnered more than $10,000 worth of gifts and monetary donations for local families.
Meagan Coughlin, project coordinator for the United Way''s Community Volunteer Center, said the nonprofit organization''s office has been crammed full of gifts from bicycles to clothes to a refrigerator. The gifts have been delivered to families headed by 18 single mothers, nine single fathers, five couples and one grandmother.
"The tremendous effort everyone put into making Christmas happen for the families was just amazing. People really went all out, from buying items like a refrigerator to paying someone''s electric bill. I can''t say enough good about Columbus and the caring hearts our town displays," said Coughlin.
Oddly enough, the touted refrigerator didn''t come from Columbus. It came from Eupora.
James Hubbard, owner of Stewart''s Body Shop in Eupora, saw an advertisement on WCBI, the United Way''s partner in organizing the Adopt-A-Family program, which led him to WCBI''s Web site, where he saw the request.
"The good Lord has blessed us this year, and we wanted to give something back. I saw where a 31-year-old lady had heart surgery and was experiencing difficulties and I wanted to help out," said Hubbard.
One of the pressing needs listed for the heart patient and her three children (ages 12, 10 and 2) was a new refrigerator.
"That was one of their big requests. They said theirs had gone out and they did not have one. I just decided that whatever was on their list that they hoped for, that''s what they were going to get," added Hubbard.
The Columbus YMCA also helped out in a major way, adopting three families.
"We got bicycles, food, gift cards, clothing and toys," said Susan Crosby, front desk supervisor for the YMCA.
The Y avoided taxing its account too much by asking members to get involved. And they anxiously complied.
"Members took a gift per person. If a child had a wish list of four items I made cards for four items and members chose from those cards and brought the gifts back wrapped," said Crosby. "They were just ecstatic to do it."
Local grocers Wal-Mart, Southern Family Markets, Food Giant and Kroger also chipped in by donating gift cards to the YMCA.
Burkhalter Rigging in Columbus took on two families -- a family of five and a family of four, which included a 4-month-old baby girl.
Those families asked for clothes, and Burkhalter came through with jogging suits, school clothes and coats for the kids, onesies for the baby and gift cards for the adults.
"I just wish I could see them when they open them because they''re going to be excited," said Rhonda Junkin, administrative assistant at Burkhalter.
needs helping hand
The Adopt-A-Family program has come to a successful conclusion, but more work remains to be done. Helping Hands, a United Way-supported agency which provides emergency assistance to families in Lowndes County, is relocating and needs help.
Helping Hands will move its Columbus office from 215 Fourth St. N., where it''s been located for 17 years, to 223 22nd St. N., across Main Street from the Salvation Army offices. The organization will share the building with fellow United Way agencies, CONTACT Helpline and the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen.
Nancy Guerry, executive director of Helping Hands, is looking for volunteers, preferably with pick-up trucks, to help move the office.
"We have a lot of food down here. We need volunteers to help box it up. There are also computers, desks and file cabinets," she said.
Volunteers don''t need to call -- just show up at the Fourth Street office between 7-10 a.m. Monday.
Guerry says sharing the office space with CONTACT and Loaves and Fishes will cost about the same in rent but will help all three agencies save on utility costs. Plus, it will put Helping Hands in a more visible location for the convenience of clients.
The Helping Hands ministry provides assistance with rent, utilities, prescription medications and other basic needs on a year-round basis. The organization occasionally services the same clients as other United Way agencies, but a Web-based database is used to prevent duplication of services.