Traditionally, Christmas is a time of joy and of giving. This year, many families struggling to pay their mortgage, rent, and utilities as well as provide food for their tables may have a difficult time celebrating the holiday. Sadly, parents may have to explain to their children why Santa was unable to come to their home.
Local agencies and churches are trying to help fulfill the holiday needs of those families with Christmas baskets loaded with food and gifts.
In Ottawa County, the Ottawa County Holiday Bureau is busy trying to collect donations of food and toys to distribute to needy families. The bureau is split into units serving the various townships located in the county.
According to Kathy Mapes, co-chairman of the Allen, Clay and Harris Townships Unit, 150 families were served last year through the Christmas Basket program.
“This is the 49th year for the holiday bureau and I have been involved for the last nine years,” Mapes said. “I am always surprised by the number of volunteers and by the generosity of the community. We know the need will be higher this year because of the economy and we are hoping the donations will match the need.”
Mapes’ unit covers residents in Curtice, Clay Center, Martin, Williston, Genoa and Elmore.
“Applications are available at both the Genoa and Elmore Post Offices and libraries as well as at local churches and day care centers,” Mapes said adding that applications were also sent home with students in the Genoa School District.
Applications for the Christmas Baskets must be received by the Ottawa County Holiday Bureau by Dec. 1.
“We provide food and toys at the holiday season,” Mapes said. “Presents are given for the children, from infants through those 18 years of age. The children ages 12 and under get two toys, and the older kids get one nice item. It is hard to get donations for teens so we are always in need of items the teens would like.”
Collections of food and toys for the holiday bureau can be made at local churches, libraries, and day care centers, Mapes said.
The Salvation Army also sponsors Angel Trees throughout the county, that include the names of needy children who would like to receive a gift from Santa. Toys from the trees also make their way to the Holiday Bureau.
“I imagine, with this economy, we will see an increase in need,” said Nancy Weidner, treasurer of the Salvation Army’s Elmore Unit. “We do what we can to provide children with a new toy at Christmas.
Weidner said the Salvation Army receives names of needy children from schools, churches and other organizations to place on the tree. Trees are located at various schools, churches and banks throughout the county.
Buckeyes and Wolverines
On Saturday, Nov. 22, a special Ohio State/Michigan Football Food Drive will be held from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Miller’s New Market. Customers may purchase food and pre-packaged food boxes at the store, Mapes said adding that all those who do donate will be eligible to win a $25 gas card.
Larry Coats, of the Oak Harbor Unit, said applications are also available by contacting any of the unit chairmen in the holiday bureau.
“The need will be greater because the economy is slow,” Coats said. “It remains to be seen at this point what the need will be. There is definitely a need out there. I am always surprised at the number we distribute each year.”
The Christmas baskets usually include meat as well as pantry staples like potatoes, noodles, rice, stuffing, canned and/or fresh vegetables and fruits, canned soups, gelatin, pudding, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti sauce, cereal, a variety of baking essentials like sugar and flour, peanut butter, jelly, as well as coffee, tea or juices.
The bureau also likes to include items that cannot be purchased with the Food Assistance Program Card (Ohio Direction Card) including laundry and dish soaps, bath soap, shampoo, tooth paste and brushes, toilet paper and tissues. Hats, gloves and socks for everybody in the family would also be appreciated.
Christmas baskets for those located in Allen and Clay Townships will be distributed on December 13 at Our Lady of Lourdes in Genoa from 9 a.m. to noon.
For those in Harris Township, baskets will be distributed on Monday, Dec. 15, at 2 p.m. at the Elmore Community Center.
Residents in Oak Harbor as well as Benton, Carroll and Salem Townships can go to the “Toy Shop” on Friday, Dec. 12, at Oak Harbor United Methodist Church. Food baskets will be distributed at the church on Thursday, Dec. 18.
The Ottawa County Holiday Bureau is in need of volunteers to help pack the baskets as well as donations of food, toys and hats and gloves. Donation boxes can be found throughout the county. For more information on the bureau, or for application information, please call Kathy Mapes, ( Allen and Clay and Harris Township) at 419-654-6273; Esteban Reyes, (Harris-Elmore) at 419-862-2968; Phyllis and Larry Coats (Oak Harbor) at 419-862-2545; Helen Nowak (Benton) at 419-898-7934; Alice Pierson (Carroll Township) at 419-898-2078; and Margaret Connell (Salem Township) at 419-898-4435.
In Wood County, residents can apply for Christmas baskets through Friday, Nov. 21, at the Salvation Army located at 1045 N. Main St., in Bowling Green. Applications will be taken from 9 a.m. - Noon and from 1-4 p.m.
Those applying for help must bring a photo id, a social security card for everyone in their household, proof of income, proof of residence (utility bill, rental agreement), as well as a birth certificate for all children ages 12 and under.
In Lucas County, several organizations and churches provide Christmas baskets. For a list of organizations, simply dial 2-1-1 to be connected to the United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline.