Midstate charities see applications for holiday assistance soar

lfabian@macon.comOctober 28, 2012 

  • How to help

    The Salvation Army kettle drive begins Nov. 9 at local stores.
    To sponsor families through the Macon Rescue Mission, call 743-7445.
    Look for Kids Yule Love collection boxes at Macon-Bibb County fire stations and participating businesses, or log onto www.kidsyulelove.com.
    Toys for Tots’ annual “Toy-a-thon” is scheduled for Dec. 8 and 9 in Middle Georgia at participating locations that will be announced at a later date.
    Family Advancement Ministries will place family wish list cards at local Catholic churches, or call 746-9803 for more information.

Parents needing help with holiday gifts could be out of luck if they haven’t already applied to charities.

The Salvation Army is processing applications collected the first two weeks of October. The Macon Rescue Mission took requests the week after and Kids Yule Love already hit its limit last week.

“We’ve taken more names in two days than we ever thought we would,” said Joe Allen, Kids Yule Love founder. “We’ve got more kids than we ever had and these are kids that weren’t helped last year.”

For the first time in 27 years, Kids Yule Love restricted applications to children who are 12 years old or younger as of Dec. 31. They had previously collected gifts for up to age 16.

Allen also is turning away families who got gifts for their children last year.

“My phone lines are still busy,” he said. “If I get the toys in, that will be different.”

The economic climate has charity directors worried that demands will exceed donations this year.

“A lot of companies are cutting back,” Allen said. “The recession is really hitting hard.”

The Salvation Army is the clearing house for families needing help.

“In today’s economy, where are you going to stop? There’s so much need,” said Maj. David Cope, area commander of the Central Georgia Salvation Army. “We tell folks, ‘You never like to shut the gate, but money only goes so far.’ ”

The gate is closed, but it might not be locked.

The Salvation Army can refer people to other organizations, but it will take an outpouring of donors to serve everyone.

Last week, the Macon Rescue Mission took 100 applications for 258 children, said Reneé Barreth, the director of the mission’s Dove Center women’s division.

If enough sponsors step forward, the mission might be able to help some more families on an emergency basis in mid-December.

Last year, they were able to assist grandparents who were raising children. The elderly couple had saved all year for Christmas only to become victims of identity theft.

This year, Barreth was surprised to see someone who sponsored a needy family last year was in line for help.

“They’re out of work this year,” Barreth said. “Many of them are single-parent homes.”

The search for sponsors will be more important and more difficult than ever, Barreth fears.

She hopes churches and other organizations will conduct their own toy drives for the mission.

Those wishing to help can contact the Macon Rescue Mission at 743-5445, she said.

The organizations also want to stretch donations to reach as many children as possible.

The Salvation Army documents all its applicants and distributes the information to other charities.

“We cross-reference and all share our lists to make sure we’re not double-dipping,” Barreth said.

The information-sharing helped catch a family on four lists, said Rena Waller, education coordinator for Family Advancement Ministries, which conducts its “Gift of Love” drive each year at Catholic churches in Middle Georgia.

“They ended up not getting anything from us,” Waller said.

FAM does not begin taking applications until Thursday, but only serves current clients already enrolled in classes to move them toward independence and self-sufficiency.

“Somebody who isn’t already in the process probably won’t be able to be helped this year,” Waller said.

Children may also have to lower expectations for their gifts.

Kids Yule Love already has 300 families wanting toys, which could mean up to 1,200 youngsters needing gifts, Allen said.

“Don’t ask for electronics,” he said. “Keep it small, and if you do want a bicycle, make sure you write the size.”

Kids Yule Love donation boxes will be located at Macon-Bibb County fire stations, Wal-Mart stores and other participating businesses.

Allen is also searching for someone to donate 800 Bibles for children and adults. His organization also needs gifts for the Seniors Yule Love outreach for senior citizens who might be alone and overlooked during the holidays.

The Salvation Army’s kettle drive kicks off Nov. 9, two weeks before Black Friday launches the holiday gift-buying season.

The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots will also be collecting thousands of gifts to be distributed through the Salvation Army and other groups in Middle Georgia.

Program coordinator Michael Newton said a “Toy-a-Thon” will be held Dec. 8- 9 at local stores. The exact locations will be determined in the coming weeks, he said.

The Salvation Army’s Cope reminds everyone they also need donations to feed the hungry at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“The army never sleeps. We’re open 24/7,” he said.

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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