Revival of program will bring efforts of several organizations together
A new program, the Christmas Bureau of Rowan County, has been created to spearhead the application process for several organizations’ Christmas giveaway programs.
The organizations and programs that will fall under the Christmas Bureau are the Salisbury Post’s Christmas Happiness fund, the Salvation Army of Rowan County’s Angel Tree, Toys for Tots of Rowan County, Project Santa in Denton and The Arc of Rowan’s Operation Santa Claus.
Applications for all of them will be taken through The Christmas Bureau, starting next week. The application process will take place Oct. 17, 18, 24 and 25 at the J.F. Hurley YMCA at Jake Alexander Boulevard, Salisbury from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
The bureau is a revival of a program that operated years ago under Rowan County Information and Referral with a similar goal — to help families in need have one centralized way to apply for Christmas help.
The idea to bring the bureau back came up as Post editor Elizabeth Cook explored the future of Christmas Happiness, which receives donations from Post readers. For 60 years, the Rowan County Department of Social Services has distributed Christmas Happiness funds to qualifying families in the form of vouchers to buy items for their children.
Last year Social Services notified the Post that the agency would no longer be able to administer Christmas Happiness because of increased demands on staff and the overtime pay it would require.
Under the leadership of Lt. Josh Morse, the Salvation Army of Rowan County agreed to administer the Christmas Happiness program and give out the vouchers.
“We’re so grateful that the Salvation Army was willing to take this on,” said Cook. “And we certainly understand the pressures Social Services is under. There would never have been a Christmas Happiness program without Social Services’ help all these years. We can never thank them enough.”
Social Services Director Donna Fayko worked hard to make sure the agency could carry out Christmas Happiness in 2012, Cook said, and remains supportive of the program.
As Cook talked to other area agencies with Christmas programs, the idea emerged for them to join forces again to streamline the application process, share information and avoid duplication. She sought the advice of the Rowan County United Way’s Executive Director Bob Lippard and Marketing Director Jackie Harris. After getting their board’s approval, they offered to help get the Christmas Bureau started and to recruit volunteer leaders.
The bureau is headed by Jeanie Moore, vice president in advancement and continuing education at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, along with Elaine Spalding, head of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.
“The impetus of the thing started with Elizabeth for the need to have someone take ownership of screening folks for the Christmas Happiness fund,” Moore said.
She said the way funds, goods and toys are collected and distributed is not going to change.
“If you have those agencies working as a collective under the Christmas Bureau, there will be a single point of applications so we would not be duplicating efforts,” Moore said.
The bureau is a way to pool resources, staffing and volunteers across multiple agencies, she said.
“This Christmas Bureau is a really good example of the kind of collaboration in our community that can produce good outcomes. We don’t want anybody to be left out at Christmas that has a need,” Moore said.
Spalding said although she’s new to the area, she’s been involved with similar programs in other communities. “This is a true collaboration and partnership,” Spalding said.
She said the bureau is a wonderful way to serve families most in need in the community.
The program is also a way to minimize those who would try to take advantage of the different programs.
Here are brief descriptions of the programs and agencies that make up the Christmas Bureau of Rowan County.
The angels are displayed on Christmas trees at local businesses, each one with information about a child in need. Any individual, church, school, civic group or business can take an angel, buy a gift or gifts requested by the child. The Salvation Army distributes the gifts to the families and provides food as well. The angel tags include the name, age, gender and gift request of the child. The age of children who can receive gifts through Angel Tree is infant through 12. For more information, contact the Salvation Army at 704-636-6491.
Salisbury Post/Salvation Army
Donations are delivered or mailed to the Salisbury Post, which publishes a daily list. The Post turns the contributions over to the Salvation Army to distribute to eligible families in the form of vouchers. Families with children 18 years and younger are eligible. This year marks the 61st year of the program. Donations will be accepted at the Salisbury Post beginning Sunday, Nov. 24.
The Arc of Rowan
Operation Santa Claus provides gifts to children and adults with development disabilities who may not receive a gift at the holidays. Organizers receive students’ names from teachers and some older adults are referred to the Arc who are in need or maybe disabled. The Riddle Development Center in Morganton and the O’Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center in Goldsboro also identify clients at their respective facilities who are from Rowan County. Some clients receive food and gifts. For more information about Operation Santa Claus contact coordinator Dee Elliott via the Arc at 704-637-1521.
First Baptist Church of Denton, Keith Garner & Denton volunteers
The volunteer-based program operates in Denton, parts of Lexington and also provides gifts for families in eastern Rowan County. Families receive food and their children receive gifts on Christmas Eve. Other items families receive include coats and other clothing. The community contributes donations to the program and volunteers distribute the items. This is the 56th year of the program. The program kicks off Oct. 19 and Oct. 20. The volunteers visit each family to ascertain their needs.
For more information about Project Santa contact coordinators Keith Garner and Bobby Garner at 336-859-3217.
Arbe and Ann Arbelaez
The purpose is to ensure children who may not otherwise receive gifts at Christmas receive presents. Collection boxes are placed at businesses throughout the county. Anyone can donate a new unwrapped toy for a child from an infant to 12 years old. The toys will then be categorized by age and gender, are wrapped and given to families in need. Toys are collected and money can be donated on Nov. 29-30, Dec. 1 at Krispy Kreme, 1428 W. Innes St., Salisbury for the Cops for Tots collection drive. Toys for Tots is looking for warehouse space of between 2,000 to 4,000 square feet to store toys.
For more information, contact Arbe Arbelaez at 704-244-9675 or assistant coordinator at 704-244-9681.