TROY — With Christmas roughly six weeks away, Partners in Hope is asking the community to help them help needy families this year through the Partners in Hope Christmas Shop.
According to Executive Director Jessica Echols, The Partners in Hope Christmas Shop began as the Christmas Giving Program in 1991 when families in need were matched with local sponsors.
“For the first several years, the program relied mostly individual citizens to provide gifts, but in 1997 area churches, businesses, and organizations joined the efforts,” she said. “The program has continued to grow over the years, and in 2008 the sponsor-match concept got an overhaul and was changed to a ‘Shop’ format where parents choose the gifts for their children.”
Echols said Partners in Hope is asking for new unwrapped toys for newborns through children who are 14 years old. Some really popular items for younger kids include Legos, sports equipment, Polly Pockets, and the latest Disney items.
“Children over age 14 receive gift cards, so those are always appreciated,” she said. “Shopping for teens can be a challenge, and we want parents to have the option of choosing a non-toy item for their older children.”
On the night of the Christmas Shop, parents choose three gifts for each child, signifying the three gifts of The Wise Men. Families also receive books donated by Altrusa, cookies from the PIH Partner Churches, and even some surprises for the adults.
Echols said the number of families who participate remain relatively constant each year, but there seemed to be an increase in the number of new families signing up for the program this year. There is not a limit on the number of children that can be served, and sign-ups will remain open until Nov. 24.
“We anticipate serving over 200 children this year and have extended the income requirements so that more families facing unforeseen challenges during this time of year will be able to qualify,” she said.
The shop relies on the work of community volunteers, who help with setting up, personal shopping, wrapping and gathering toys from all the collection sites. Many of the volunteers at the shop are the participant families themselves, who sort and wrap gifts for their fellow shoppers.
Echols said the pride and joy throughout the program are indescribable.
“We get to see the pride on the faces of the parents as they shop because this program is a partnership that offers a hand up, and not just a hand out,” she said. “There is a great deal of satisfaction for families who participate, knowing that they are giving back to the community that is supporting them in their time of need.”
All families who sign up make a small donation or volunteer their time, and then on the night of the Christmas Shop, they get to vote for a local organization that they would like to see receive the donated funds. Last year the money was donated by the participant families to the Van Cleve School D.C. Trip Scholarship Fund.
“It is exciting to me to offer this opportunity to the people we serve,” Echols said. “Time and talent is something we can all give, regardless of economic status.”
Those interested in giving toys to the Christmas Shop can do so by dropping them at the bins, which are located at 16 Troy area churches as well as the following business locations:
Giacomos; Action GBW Sunoco; Wm. & Boss Jewelers; Hittle’s Jewelry; Sunset Cleaners; R.J. Warner Insurance; Hobart Corporation; ITW; City of Troy Building; Oakley Chiropractic; Troy Board of Education; Troy Towne Apartments; Winan’s; Q Nail and Tan; Sweeney Todd; Studio 45; Dr. Culp and Dr. Simms DDS; Up and Running; Olive Oasis; Lowes; Little York Tavern; and Lion and Lamb.
Toys can also be dropped off at Partners in Hope during office hours Monday through Friday.
Anyone interested in volunteering is encouraged to call Deborah Hall at (937) 335-0448. Spots fill up quickly.
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