As the chaotic and stressful year 2020 draws to a close, area agencies and nonprofits are working a little harder than usual to ensure that local families in need are able to enjoy the holiday season.
“Our greatest need is meeting the goal of having all of our families sponsored this year,” said Jackie Brett, special programs coordinator for the Spotsylvania County Department of Social Services. “Everyone needs just a little more hope this year.”
Since 2006, Spotsylvania DSS has run Holiday Hope, a program providing Thanksgiving meals to families on public assistance and Christmas gifts or gift cards for children up to age 17, the disabled and adults over age 65.
Brett said approximately 425 families—equating to more than 1,100 children, disabled adults and seniors—had applied for holiday assistance by the Oct. 9 deadline, which is comparable to last year.
However, she said she has been speaking with “many” other families who are in need and didn’t apply. The department is still accepting “emergency” cases, even though the deadline has passed.
“When one has to figure out how to balance work or how to find a job, how to virtually educate their children, how to access food [and] ways to prevent illness, the last thing one is thinking about is applying for holiday assistance,” Brett said.
At the same time, there are fewer sponsors to donate meals and gifts to the program, she said.
Many of the area churches would get groups together to sponsor families in the past, but that’s not happening this year due to congregations not meeting in person, Brett said.
“There are also people who don’t feel comfortable shopping in stores or interacting with the public at this time,” she said. “In addition, some have been hit hard financially and simply don’t have the means to help this year.”
The agency is hoping those who do have the means will step up to help their neighbors this year. Brett said they will work with people who want to shop and have gifts delivered virtually this year.
“We will do everything we can to ensure all of our families are sponsored this year,” she said. “Folks can reach out directly to us and we will coordinate that process. If we can give individuals, children, families, just a bit of hope and joy—a little bit of normalcy this holiday season—then we have achieved our mission and succeeded as a community.”
To sign up as a sponsor, contact Brett at 540/507-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spotsylvania is also sponsoring a holiday gift drive for the 270 residents of two assisted living facilities in the county—Carriage Hill and Fredericksburg Health and Rehabilitation.
Gift ideas include shampoo and conditioner, toothbrushes and toothpaste, non-slip socks, blankets, soap or body wash, large print crossword puzzles and word finds and hand sanitizer.
The county is asking for handwritten greeting cards along with the gifts.
The last day to donate items is Nov. 30, so that they can be quarantined before delivery to the facilities.
Donors can shop online and have items delivered to PO Box 249, Spotsylvania, VA 22553, to the attention of R. Adame. Items can also be dropped off at the Spotsylvania DSS office at 9104 Courthouse Road, Spotsylvania 22553.
Here are some other programs seeking donations to help families this holiday season:
The agency is hoping to reach double the number of families through its holiday assistance program this year than it has in the past three years, coordinator Erin Riley said.
The program, which is for families enrolled in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs, provides the makings for either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and gifts for children and seniors.
As in Spotsylvania, many traditional church sponsors are not available this year, Riley said, so DSS is asking the community to “step up.”
Gift cards and donations for Thanksgiving meals have already been collected, but the community can drop off Christmas gifts and gift cards Dec. 7 through 14 at Anne E. Moncure Elementary School at 75 Moncure Lane in North Stafford.
To sponsor, email Riley at email@example.com.
The department has streamlined its holiday program due to the pandemic, assistant department director Anne Tyree said.
“We do [have] a few sponsors who are providing gifts,” she said. “However, we are primarily accepting financial donations to purchase gift cards.”
Tyree said the agency is hoping to help 150 county families celebrate the holidays this year.
Checks payable to “Caroline DSS” can be mailed to P.O. Box 430, Bowling Green, VA 22427. Donations can be accepted throughout December.
The city’s social services department runs several holiday donation drives.
“Gifts from the Heart” provides presents for city children in need. Program manager Hayley Badillo said there are approximately 130 children on the list to receive gifts and there are only sponsors for 50 so far.
Donors are matched with a specific family and the deadline to purchase gifts is Dec. 11.
Those interested in sponsoring a child can contact Sevonia Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540/372-1032.
Fredericksburg DSS also runs “Stocking for Seniors,” a drive to collect filled stockings, stocking stuffers or money to help local seniors.
Badillo said seniors are becoming more isolated due to group activities being cancelled and volunteer services being suspended to prevent spreading COVID-19.
“Because of this, we are seeing that our seniors are becoming more and more lonely,” she said.
To donate to this program, which has a Dec. 7 deadline, contact Elizabeth Smith at email@example.com or 540/372-1032, ext. 255.
Project Manger is a third annual donation drive run by the city DSS. Monetary donations to this drive will support the purchase of portable cribs for city families who are in need of safe sleeping arrangements for their infants and toddlers.
The average cost of a new portable crib is $60. To donate to Project Manager, contact KT Bell at 540/372-1032, ext. 259, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EMBRACE TREATMENT FOSTER CARE
The statewide organization, which has an office in Fredericksburg, provides specialized therapeutic foster home placement for children with extra needs.
Every year, the local office asks the community to help “stuff a stocking” for a child in the program by donating either a filled stocking or loose stocking stuffer items.
Katora Coffee and the FredNats are program partners this year.
Gretchen Rusden, recruitment coordinator for Embrace’s Fredericksburg location, said she hopes to reach children statewide and will donate any extra stockings to local social services offices.
Stocking stuffer ideas include gift cards, nail polish, lotion, headphones, socks, mittens, play dough, small toys, movie tickets and bath bubbles.
Loose items and filled stockings—marked with age and gender—can be dropped off at Katora Coffee at 615 Caroline St. in downtown Fredericksburg, or the FredNats Team Shop at 45 Jackie Robinson Way, through Dec. 11.
Contact Rusden at 540/613-5120 with questions.
Stafford Junction, a faith-based nonprofit serving Stafford County, is hoping to provide more than 100 Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners-in-a-box to its families in need, Executive Director Mark Cartledge said.
“It is possible that number could increase significantly, with additional donations,” he said. “We do a lot of praying here at Stafford Junction.”
Each box will contain a turkey or ham, side dishes, rolls and a pie. Members of the community can sponsor a box for $45.
Members of the community can also volunteer to be “Angels” and shop for holiday gifts for a Junction family. Angels are matched with a specific family and provided with a wish list.
Gift-wrapped items should be dropped off at Stafford Junction at 791 Truslow Road, Fredericksburg 22406 by Dec. 17. Sponsors can also shop online and have items delivered to the office.
Contact Rachel Feldman at email@example.com or by phone at 540/993-1760.
TOYS FOR TOTS
The Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign began Oct. 1 and ends Dec. 13.
Last year, the program distributed 108,867 toys to 106,5532 children in the area surrounding Marine Corps Base Quantico.
New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at UBreakiFix at 1909 Plank Road or at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
Contact campaign coordinator Sgt. Matthew Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540/684-0962.
SALVATION ARMY ANGEL TREE
The Salvation Army and Walmart partner every year to provide clothing and toys during the holiday season to children in need. Donors can shop for a child’s holiday wish list at local Walmart stores or by purchasing from the online registry.
To find a local online registry, visit salvationarmyusa.org/usn/walmart-angel-tree and enter your ZIP code.
If you are running a holiday donation drive not included in this list, email information to email@example.com.
Adele Uphaus–Conner: 540/735-1973
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