Christmas Bureau opens doors, prepares to help as many as possible
by Alexa Massau
For the Union County Christmas Bureau, collecting enough toy, food and cash donations this season is only half the battle. The rest of the struggle comes in compiling a list of all those relying on the bureau staff to help them make Christmas special.
The bureau opened its doors Monday, Oct. 25 to get a jump on this year’s need, and staff have devised a take-a-number system to ensure everyone gets taken care of and hopefully alleviate long lines from building up each day.
The goal is “simply to meet the needs of the families that have applied,” said Gloria Haney, bureau volunteer coordinator. That could mean collecting between $20,000 to $40,000 in cash donations for food, while accumulating enough new or gently used toys for 2,000 families.
To meet those needs, the bureau is relying on help from area residents. They need coats for small children, bigger type toys, and gifts for teenagers.
“We want to make sure those teens aren’t forgotten,” Haney said.
Interested people can pick up a stocking at the Big Lots location near Monroe Crossing to fill – something staff point out could cost as little as $10 to do. People also can sponsor a child by purchasing one entire new outfit and two toys – one small, one large.
Those looking for a larger commitment can sponsor a family, which involves sponsoring each child in the family and getting a gift card to a local grocer. The card should have enough to cover the holiday meal and a little extra to offset the child or children being home on winter break from schools. Many children under these circumstances are on free or reduced meals at school, and on break may not get breakfast or lunch.
“Food is a big issue; we are trying to take care of the basic needs.” Haney said. Those basic needs often include utilities and rent, and the bureau doesn’t want to see families miss a bill in favor of buying Christmas gifts only to be evicted come January.
“If people could see, they’d feel more giving,” Fisher said. “UCCB has a big need for coats for small children, bigger type toys, and gifts for teenagers.
While the group has seen a noticeable drop on evictions since starting the program, they’ve also seen a drop in corporate donations. In an effort to fight back, bureau members Dianne Fisher, Christine Robertson and Holly Schmitt have started Heart of People Everywhere – a 501(c)3 nonprofit they hope companies will support due to the tax incentive. All funds raised through Heart of People Everywhere goes back to the Christmas bureau.
“If people could see (what’s happening) they’d feel more giving,” Fisher said.
Added Haney, while talking about a family the bureau sponsored in the past that was selling off possessions to make ends meet: “You have to see the inside to really see how [people] are living.”
For more information regarding volunteering, donations, upcoming events, and sponsorship visit UCCB online. Specifically for those that want to volunteer check out www.signupgenius.com/go.christmas195
How it works
The Union County Christmas Bureau’s 2010 location is next to Monroe Mall in the old Big Lots building. They are open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. People must bring identification, a current utility bill that shows Union County residency, proof of income and a Social Security number or W-7 form to apply for help. Those standing in line at 9 a.m. will get a number, 1 to 100, which will determine when they are served. Anyone over 100 will be asked to come back another day. Applications must be completed by Dec. 1. Assistance is based on availability of sponsorship and financial need, with funds spread equally among the qualified families. For more information, visit http://www.co.union.nc.us/HumanServices/SocialServices/ChristmasBureau.aspx/.