Secret Santa is gearing up for Christmas already

Published 3:15 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The weather is still hot and parents haven’t packed away their children’s summer clothes yet, but Santa is already making his list and recruiting elves.

The Lawrence County Department of Jobs and Family Services is collecting donations and looking for volunteers for the Secret Santa program that provides children with winter clothing and toys, elderly with fruit baskets and big screen televisions to nursing homes for Christmas.

“This helps with the needs of the community,” Lindilou Ferguson, an account clerk at LCJFS, said. “Especially with the way gas prices are. People need help just trying to get by and with Christmas for the children.”

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The program served about 400 children and raised more than $5,000 last year, she said.

Ed Gullett, supervisor at LCJFS, said the program is not agency based. He said the employees coordinate the collections of donations and distribute them with help from other organizations including the Beta Club of Symmes Valley.

He said dinners and raffles are also done all year long in order to collect money to purchase the items.

“Wherever we think we can raise money, we do it,” he said. “The primary reason for Secret Santa is to make sure the children are properly clothed. We see in low economic homes how families are left behind and we are trying to help them out.”

Ferguson said the program has been so successful that LCJFS is getting a head start on it this year. She said the applications for recipients will be available at the LCJFS office, located at 1100 S.7th St., on Oct. 20 and are due back by Oct. 31.

“We served more last year than we have ever,” Ferguson said. “It just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. And, in my opinion; better.”

Santa delivered a big-screen television to Bryan’s Health Center and a Nintendo Wii last year.

“They help because they can’t see (smaller televisions) and because they are in the community rooms, it gives them the opportunity to socialize with other residents,” Gullett said.

Gullett said monetary donations are also used to help families who have suffered disasters or hardships.

He said there are no income guidelines for the fruit basket program, but there are guidelines for the children’s program.

Wal Mart gift cards for $10 were in the fruit baskets last year and Gullet said the recipients used them for prescriptions and personal items.

LCJFS has a football Fan Tastic basket raffle that will end at 12 p.m. on Sept. 19. The basket includes two tickets to the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals game in Cincinnati on Sept. 28, a $100 Visa gift card, 2 game teams throws, a bag of Tostitos, a jar of peanuts and a jar of Tostitos dip.

Tickets are $5 each or $20 for 6. Contact the LCJFS for tickets at (740) 532-3324.

The proceeds will go to the Secret Santa Nursing Home Project.

Gullett said anyone with questions or looking to volunteer can contact him (740) 532-3324 ext. 220, Lindilou Ferguson at ext.328 or James Ward at ext.242.

“The more people we get to help, the more people we can help,” he said.