11/13/05 — Local charities anticipate more need coming in county this holiday season

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Local charities anticipate more need coming in county this holiday season

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on November 13, 2005 2:00 AM

Some of Goldsboro's charities are worried that not everyone here will have a merry Christmas this year.

Because of the rising cost of gas and heating fuels and all the money Wayne County residents have sent to victims of disasters elsewhere in the country, charities are concerned that even more people will need help, but not be able to find it, this holiday season.

One of the bigger charities -- the Salvation Army -- is already taking a hard look at how many families it will be able to help this Christmas, and also at how much will go to each person.

Salvation Army Commander Maj. Andrew Wiley said his organization is trying to find ways to convince people here that supporting the disaster victims is honorable, compassionate and necessary, but that there are still needs at home, too.

"We have people right here in Wayne County every day who struggle, who can't put food on the table, who don't know how they're going to pay their lights, who don't know where the rent money is going to come from," he said. "If people say they've given to hurricane relief and that's their giving for the year, then home hurts."

The high cost of heating fuel, especially going into the winter months, has the Salvation Army worried that some people won't have enough money left over to give to charity, and others who might not have asked for help before will need it this year.

"Children will definitely feel the impact at the holidays," Wiley said. "Children don't understand economics. They don't understand the limited charitable dollars. All children know is that on Christmas morning they want a toy."

What will the Salvation Army do?

"Honestly, what we may have to do is reduce the number of toys we give a child," Wiley said. "Maybe a child will only get one or two toys whereas before they got three. We may not be able to give as many families food boxes as we typically do.

"If it's not coming in to us, we can't give it out. In the past, we've had good support at Christmas, but we aren't so sure about this year."

The Salvation Army's biggest fundraiser is its Kettle Campaign, which starts Nov. 25 and runs through Christmas Eve.

The organization also has a stocking program where civic groups and others in the community fill stockings that will be given to children at Christmas.

The Salvation Army also takes a small gift to residents in local nursing homes. It does care packets for inmates at the correctional facility and for inmates' children.

And giving does not have to mean money for everyone. Sometimes time is just as valuable, Wiley said.

"Maybe people don't have resources to give," he said. "We can use them to help ring bells for the kettle campaign and other things at the Salvation Army building."

Patients at Cherry Hospital also might not be very merry this holiday season. Special Services Director Tanya Rollins said contributions to Operation Santa Claus might be a little more scarce since people have given so much to hurricane relief.

Operation Santa Claus receives donations of gifts from about 21 mental health associations in the eastern part of the state, Ms. Rollins said. She said she doesn't think disaster relief will hurt the donated items, but probably will affect monetary donations the organization uses to round out its patient gift program.

"If we don't get enough money, we will have to scrounge around and get some money from somewhere," Ms. Rollins said.

All of Cherry's patients receive a gift package on Christmas Day containing one big item that each patient has requested such as a coat or a pair of shoes and six or seven smaller items such as socks, underwear, toboggans, toiletries, candy.

"If we didn't get enough donations to give the patients as much, their Christmas wouldn't be quite as joyous, and it wouldn't be as fun," Ms. Rollins said. "When the patients receive gifts at Christmas time, they are very excited to get them. Everybody likes to get something on Christmas Day. We never get too old for that. A lot of the patients will even wear their gifts that day."

Cherry Hospital holds fundraisers throughout the year to help with Operation Santa Claus, but still needs donations from the community. Any group or business may pick up a patient wish list from Cherry.

Anyone who would like to give a Christmas party for the patients is welcome to do so.

And community entries are needed for a special Christmas parade to be held Dec. 2 at 3:45 p.m. at Cherry, with no entry fee.

Berkeley Mall Manager Linda Priestly said she thinks there will probably be more names on the mall's three Wish Trees this holiday season.

"I don't know how it will do this year," she said.

She said there are usually about 800 names on the trees, which the mall gets from WAGES and Services on Aging.

"But I think that number's going to be higher this year." she said.

Anyone can pick a tag off the trees. The tag has information on the back about the recipient and his or her Christmas wishes and needs.

The donors purchase gifts, wrap them and put the tags on them. They deliver the wrapped presents to Kay Jewelers and then mall maintenance employees deliver the gifts to WAGES and Services on Aging.

Some local agencies are not anticipating any problems this year.

The community has faced other disasters in the past and people have still come through for the Empty Stocking Fund, said Barbara Sturm, secretary/treasurer. She said she feels the fund will have no problems again this year.

"We've always counted on this community, and they've always come through for us," she said. "And we feel certain that things will be fine this year."

She said she feels that people will go that extra mile for children.

"I think that everyone knows that Christmas is so much about children and doing for children and they get joy out of that. It's important for children in our community, and people recognize that. People may go without something for themselves to have that money to contribute to make sure a child in our community has a Christmas."

Empty Stocking Fund officials hope to help more than 500 local children this year with a party, clothing, a toy and a stocking filled with candy, fruit and treats.

Lighthouse of Wayne County Co-director Cheri Seronick said she doesn't think her agency will suffer at the holidays this year.

"Most of our help comes from outside donations," she said. "I don't think those sources have dried up yet."

Mrs. Seronick said that in previous years the Lighthouse has used food from the safehouse pantry, but it's been depleted and that's not an option this year. The Lighthouse needs donations of nonperishable foods for holiday meals for families.

The Lighthouse holds a children's party for between 150 and 200 local children complete with refreshments and presents.

It also has about 30 families who need community groups to sponsor them for the holidays, helping with food and presents.