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Christmas charity has new offer for parents

jvorhees@macon.com

For 30 years, one Middle Georgia nonprofit has helped parents in need get Christmas presents for their children. This year, though, Kids Yule Love will be offering gifts of another kind to parents.

“Instead of a handout, we’ll give them a hand up,” the charity’s founder, Joe Allen, said Tuesday. “We’re asking any individual who comes in and does not have a high school diploma or a GED if they would like to get their GED. … The only thing we’re asking them to do is study and take the test. We’ll take care of everything else.”

There are free prep classes for the GED diploma in the midstate, such as those offered by Central Georgia Technical College. There, it costs $160 to take all five sections of the test.

The GED offer will be optional, but Allen said the four-hour community service commitment for parents initiated last year will still be mandatory.

The 2015 rule requiring volunteer hours was put in place after some recipients abused the charity by returning presents to stores in exchange for cash refunds, Allen said. The service hours are tracked by Volunteer Macon Inc. or Volunteer Houston County Inc., which pairs parents with churches, schools and food banks.

About 3,200 children in 24 counties received gifts from Kids Yule Love last year, Allen said.

Kids Yule Love founder Joe Allen details a Christmas Eve mission as gifts are delivered to families in need.

A dip in applicants and donations “hurt,” Allen said of the nonprofit he started in 1986. To cut costs this year, bicycles will not be provided as gifts as in years past.

“The only money we get is what people donate to us,” Allen said. “We’re hurting this year.”

Even so, the GED offer is possible because of a partnership with another group, which Allen said will be announced later.

“We found out a lot of those that have come over the years have not gotten their high school diploma … nor do they have a GED,” he said. “They can’t get a job. … Anybody that we can help, we’re going to try to help them.”

Applications for Kids Yule Love holiday help will begin this weekend. In Macon, applications will be taken Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at North Macon Park off Wimbish Road. In Warner Robins, applications will be taken from 3-6 p.m. Sunday at Warner Robins Recreation Park, 800 Watson Blvd. (For more dates, go to: www.kidsyulelove.com.)

On the day after Thanksgiving, bells will ring beside 35 red kettles set up outside stores across Bibb and Houston counties.

The Salvation Army of Central Georgia raised about $85,000 last year and is aiming to raise $100,000 this year, area Commander Frances Gilliam said.

The annual ribbon-cutting ceremony for Salvation Army’s “angel tree” is set for Nov. 19 at The Shoppes at River Crossing. It will take place at the same time as the community tree lighting, Gilliam said.

The angel tree is decorated with wish lists of children in need for shoppers to pick up and fulfill. Typically, 500 to 600 families and 400 senior citizens are helped.

Gilliam said applications for the tree will reviewed at prearranged appointments from Oct. 17-18 in Houston County.

“We’ve already filled up all of our appointment dates for Bibb County, but afterward we do start taking case-by-case and emergency situations,” Gilliam said, adding that appointments in Bibb are set for Oct. 11-14.

Though there’s no shortage of people in need, Gilliam said the Salvation Army needs volunteers.

“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Gilliam said. “Volunteers mean we have to pay less for payroll, and it allows more money that is raised to be used for services that we provide.”

Laura Corley: 478-744-4334, @Lauraecor

For more information

To learn more about how to give to or receive from Kids Yule Love, visit www.kidsyulelove.com. For more information about Salvation Army of Central Georgia, call 478-746-8572.

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