Presents under the tree and a full stomach on Christmas Eve may be customary for some, but, for others, even basic necessities can be difficult to come by throughout the holidays.
One local organization is dedicated to bringing “Christmas Cheer” to those those families who need extra assistance this season.
Personnel from fire departments from Wapakoneta, Buckland, St. Johns and Uniopolis are asking their communities to donate toys and non-perishable food items through the “Christmas Cheer” program, which is celebrating its 31st year collecting and distributing donations.
The donation deadline is Dec. 4. After that date, volunteers will be sorting and wrapping the goods in order to be delivered on Saturday, Dec. 14.
Those interested in donating can find red barrels labeled “Christmas Cheer” dispersed at local businesses throughout the community to place their items. The Wapakoneta Fire Department is accepting walk-in donations.
Committee Chair Amy Jump said new or gently used toys are needed for children from newborn to age 15. However, she said the collection tends to lack in the older children’s age groups.
“Gift cards are really helpful for that age group,” Jump said.
For the youngest, infant diapers are requested.
For those who wish to wrap their donated gifts, Jump requested a tag be secured on the outside of the wrappings, specifying the age and gender the gift is meant for. The committee is also accepting wrapping paper, as every gift delivered to a child will be wrapped.
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She said any kind of canned of boxed goods, which are not required to be holiday foods, are being accepted. They will not be accepting any food items in glass containers.
Any monetary donations will be accepted to be used to purchase perishable food items for a Christmas meal.
“This will help them have a nice Christmas dinner,” Jump said. “They are very appreciative.”
The Christmas Cheer program began in 1983 with 12 families receiving assistance. In 2012, the program reached out to help 324 local families in need during the holidays.
Jump said the Christmas Cheer program’s motto is “striving to provide a hand up, not a hand out.”
She said the families are reached through applications from the Auglaize County Family Jobs and Services. Of the 800 families the for whom the applications were offered, 280 applications were returned requesting assistance.
Wapakoneta Fire Chief Kendall Krites said the committee has received enough proceeds to fund this year — however, the demand is high.
While donations have decreased slightly in the past few years, Krites said the community comes through for those in need during the holidays.
“We have an overwhelming support from individuals, businesses and service clubs,” Krites said.
Krites said four churches in particular have supported their program, including St. Joseph’s in Wapakoneta, St. Patrick’s in Glynnwood, St. Mark’s in Clay Township and St. John’s in Fryburg. Each church houses a barrel to collect member donations.
Krites said the Wapakoneta Walmart has a Christmas tree with children’s ages and genders who are in need. There is a donation barrel available.
Krites said The Dance Centré, Steinke Family Chiropractic and Tranquility Spinal Care have been particularly supportive through the fundraiser.
“It amazes me the response from the community that we get every year,” Krites said.
Participation for the fundraiser is not limited to businesses. Local schools are also doing their part. Wapakoneta Elementary, Wapakoneta Middle and Cridersville Elementary schools are holding contests to see which classroom can raise the most goods for their community.
Krites said the Christmas Cheer program also receives “generous” monetary and delivery help from the Lion’s Club, the Rotary Club and local Boy Scouts.
The donated goods will be sorted at the Auglaize County Junior Fair building, Krites said.
He said multiple companies allow the use of their vehicles to transport the goods to the houses, including Miller’s Textile, Stahler Trucking and Trupointe Cooperative, Inc.
“People are very thankful for the assistance,” Krites said. “That’s what keeps us going — it makes it worth doing again.”