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Christmas Friends Inc. begins 33rd year

Christmas Friends Inc. kicked off its 33rd year this week of helping the less fortunate of Middlesex County. The community-based program again brings together those who want to make Christmas brighter for hundreds of local needy children, and elderly or disabled adults.

Santa’s helpers will have to work quickly. The gifts this year will be delivered on Saturday, December 15. That gives volunteers less than four weeks to buy, wrap, sort and deliver thousands of gifts.

Shopping and wrapping
Packets are being prepared for more than 100 volunteer shoppers who will soon begin fulfilling the wish lists for recipients.

Wrapping sessions at the Sentinel office will be on two Saturdays, December 1 and 8, and, if needed, on Sunday, December 9. To volunteer to wrap presents or deliver, please call Geanie Longest at the Southside Sentinel at 758-2328, ext. 101, or email her at glongest@ssentinel.com. On December 15 several vehicles will be needed for gift delivery. The ideal van for holding approximately 25 large bags of gifts is a Chrysler or Dodge with stowaway rear seats or similar size vans with seats that can be completely removed. “Full size” SUVs (such as a Chevy Suburban) have also been used successfully. Most regular-size SUVs do not have enough space for all the bags.

Full size pick-up trucks with camper shells will also work.

Partnership
Since its creation in 1986, a key to the success of Christmas Friends has been its partnership with the Middlesex County Department of Social Services, which carefully screens all applicants for eligibility. Applicants must meet strict income guidelines.

Once applicants are approved, the gift-giving program begins a process that’s almost like a pre-Christmas visit with Santa. Eligible families submit a “wish list” of clothing (including sizes and colors desired), toys and other needs; a volunteer shopper is assigned and issued donated funds; and the purchased gifts are assembled at the Sentinel office in Urbanna for wrapping and delivery.

The fund-raising goal for Christmas Friends this year is $28,000. Last year, Christmas Friends spent $30,410 on gifts for 299 people.

In 2017, the community donated $34,467 and Christmas Friends helped 229 children and 70 elderly or disabled adults, said Christmas Friends secretary and shopping director Bettie Lee Gaskins.

Gift boxes are always needed and delivery vans and drivers will soon be assigned. If you have a van and are willing to remove its back seats and be the driver for one of 12 delivery teams on Saturday, December 15, please call 758-2328. 

Gift boxes can be left any time at the back door of the Sentinel office.

For more information, call Geanie Longest at the Southside Sentinel.

Total volunteer effort
All funds donated to Christmas Friends go directly to help needy children and disabled or low-income elderly of Middlesex. All workers are volunteers and there are no administrative fees. Supplies such as boxes, wrapping paper and delivery bags are all donated. Volunteers supply storage space, vans and fuel to assist with the big delivery job.

Contributors will be recognized as Christmas Friends and their donations will be listed in the Sentinel. Contributors who wish to remain anonymous should request that their donations be listed as such. Memorial contributions also will be acknowledged.

Donations received through November 19 total $1,783.10. Donors include:
Jerry and Judy Whidby, $200.
James and Marilyn Snodgrass, $50.
In memory of Bev Silver by Bob and Susan Fitch, $100.
In memory of Jess Saunders by Mom, Dad, Vance, Meredith, Austin, Lucas, Maria and Emma, $250.
Anonymous, $350.
Anonymous, $25.10.
Edna Yankovich Circle of Clarksbury United Methodist Church, $100.
Middle Peninsula Regional Security Center, $708.
Total this week: $1,783.10

posted 11.26.2018

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