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Christmas Bureau matches applicants to helping programs

Last in a series

This Christmas, Americans expect to spend $781 on gifts, on average, according to Gallup. That’s up from $704 a year ago — and completely unimaginable to families struggling to put food on the table.

But they might give a little something to their children, with help.

They might even get a visit from Santa.

The Rowan County Christmas Bureau helps families connect with programs that can provide a modest gift for each child.

Some of the participating programs target a specific area. Project Santa of First Baptist Church in Denton, for example, focuses on families in Davidson County and in eastern Rowan County.

Arc of Rowan’s Operation Santa helps Rowan residents with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Other programs are much broader. The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, the Salisbury Post Christmas Happiness Fund and Toys for Tots share a simple mission: help children in disadvantaged Rowan County families experience the joy of Christmas.

For all these programs, the Christmas Bureau will take applications  on three days, starting next weekend. Applications will be taken at the J.F. Hurley YMCA, 828 Jake Alexander Blvd. W.

• Friday, Nov. 7 — 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

• Saturday, Nov. 8 — 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

• Saturday, Dec. 6 — 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Project Santa

Project Santa got its start when Bobby R. Garner received a $25 holiday bonus check and decided it should help provide Christmas in Denton for a needy family.

His $25 went toward a doll, clothing and food for the family’s children. That gesture some 56 years ago started something that has grown much bigger.

“It’s amazing what God has done with $25,” Keith Garner of Salisbury, Bobby Garner’s son, once told a Post reporter. “We always look at it that way.”

Project Santa completed its 55th year of Christmas Eve deliveries to children in Davidson and Rowan counties in 2013, taking toys and treat bags to 701 children.

Volunteers with the program visit each family to determine their need. They make about 500 visits over two months. Denton First Baptist Church serves as the project’s headquarters. Last year, the group assembled 267 fruit baskets, 700 treat bags and 385 food boxes, all packed away for Santa — 19 Santas, actually, and loads of helpers — to deliver on Christmas Eve. They also deliver clothes and toys.

Operation Santa

Operation Santa brings the spirit of Christmas to individuals with developmental disabilities who may not have Christmas otherwise. It also serves Rowan County residents who live in institutional settings.

Operation Santa is a program of Arc of Rowan, a United Way Agency that provides programs and supports for people with developmental disabilities living in Rowan County.

It’s just one of many ways groups in the community reach out to people in need at the holidays.

If you’d like to volunteer to help the Christmas Bureau take applications next Friday, Saturday or Dec. 6, call the Rowan County United Way at 704-633-1802.

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