(By Matt Pedigo, The Citizen-Times, Used with permission)
Organizers of a program that serves hundreds of underprivileged local children each Christmas wants participating families to mark the week of October 16-20 on their calendars.
That’s the week they’ll pre-register their children for “Together for Christmas,” which provides free Christmas gifts, from toys to teen products—for local youth whose families could not otherwise afford them.
“Together,” a collaboration between the Allen County Schools Family Resource Center/Youth Services Center and the Allen County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 36, served 466 local children and teens last year.
Youth ages 0-18 can qualify, as long as the teens are still enrolled in the Allen County School District. Registration will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on those days at the Allen County-Scottsville High School Patriot Athletic Complex, located behind AC-S.
Unlike last year, there is no Saturday registration this year, but an extra weekday was added. So, notes organizer and FRC/YSC Support Specialist Angel Clark, there’s actually five days to register, versus four last year. No late registrations will be accepted.
Parents or guardians should bring each participating child’s birth certificate or Social Security number, plus proof of residency in Allen County. Proof of income is also needed; this can include documentation of benefits, child support, wages or food stamps. Examples are bank statements, pay stubs or tax returns.
For properly-registered families, the toy giveaway will be Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8-9, also at the Athletic Complex. Families that qualify but do not register on these dates can still get gifts, but only half as much as the registered families, and then after the registered families are served first. Thanks to Breath of Life Ministries and White Plains Baptist Church, the families also get food for a Christmas meal—a canned ham or turkey, canned vegetables, etc.
Generally, enough food boxes are prepared to cover the pre-registered families, and leftovers have gone to other groups in need, including local grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.
To make this possible, the FRC/YSC and FOP volunteers spend each fall fundraising through several events that the public can turn out to support. The first is set for Saturday, Oct. 7, when a motorcycle ride and cruise-in are set for Dumont Hill Park (see graphic). Next is the “Stuff the Cruiser” day, in which customers at all three Dollar General stores in the county—Scottsville’s square, Dollar General Market and the Cedar Springs store—can donate new gifts. A law enforcement vehicle will be at these locations to collect donated items. This year’s event is set for Friday, Nov. 10, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at all stores.
“We have a lot of people pull up,” Clark said. “We have one lady who brings bags of gifts from Kohl’s.”
Last year’s Stuff the Cruiser event turned out to be a big help for Santa—$2,948 worth of toys were donated. After Stuff the Cruiser, the next FOP event will be a roadblock in Scottsville’s square, set for Saturday, Nov. 25.
The “Together for Christmas” campaign also benefits from generous sponsors and donors, be they businesses, industries, churches, civic groups and individuals. Dollar General for example, offered a $600 credit on toys last year as FOP and FRC/YSC volunteers shopped for “Together.” In 2015, an anonymous donor made a big difference, contributing $5,000.
Anyone can donate anytime. The FOP has storage for early toy donations. Monetary contributions to the FOP or YSC are welcome, and are tax-deductible, as both are federally-recognized non-profit organizations. Donations can be made at the Scottsville Police Department or at the FRC office in the Allen County Intermediate Center.
The FRC and YSC, with offices in all local schools, also serve students throughout the year, providing food, clothing and other essentials when children need them. Gently-used or new clothing, coats, shoes, non-perishable food items and more are always welcome. (Call 270-618-8202 or 270 622-3311.)
In “Together for Christmas,” the amount of money raised determines how much “shopping” recipient parents or guardians can do. When they come to the giveaway at their appointed times, parents or guardians get a voucher ($60 per child last year). They are led by assisting volunteers through tables of gifts that are pre-sorted by children’s age groups, from babies through teens. All of those items are new, but there’s also a “free room” area, where parents or guardians can sort though gently-used clothing, toys or teen items and pick out some without it counting against their vouchers.
Anyone who has questions about Together for Christmas or would like to contribute can call Clark at James E. Bazzell Middle School, (270-622-7140).