It’s time for local nonprofits helping kids to put on their ‘Santa helper hats.’ This week, local programs are working to pack up and distribute donated Christmas toys and wish list items.
In Middle Georgia, non-profit programs like Kids Yule Love , The Salvation Army Angel Tree, and The Marine Toys for Tots, rely heavily on community donations to help put smiles on the faces of children at Christmas.
This year the Coronavirus pandemic has created long-term economic hardships for many families and businesses. As a result, the non-profit agencies that families looked to for help are now needing help.
Local charities said Macon-Bibb County residents dug deep and came up with gifts despite the pandemic’s negative financial fallout.
The Salvation Army Angel Tree did not see a drop in gift donations for this year, according to Corps Officer Major Rebekah Poole. She said surprisingly, all of the Angel tree requests for nearly 300 families, and some senior citizens have been met throughout the program’s five county area. She said she was really grateful.
“I certainly can’t explain it, especially with the number of people who have been out of jobs and more people in need and yet, you see more people willing to help more,” Poole said. “You know, it kinda boggles your mind.”
Poole said this year’s gifts were also better quality gifts.
“Actually, for the kids, we put them on a wish list, and they have a wish. And sometimes they get that wish, and sometimes they don’t,” Poole said. “But a lot of kids have gotten it this year off that wish list. So yeah, I’ve been impressed with that.”
The Angel Tree Tags hung on trees at Walmart and the Mall at River Crossing in Macon.
“Some people go out and they’ll purchase a whole set of clothing, shoes, several toys, and all of that. Some people can’t do all that. So they might just purchase clothing, or they might just purchase a couple of toys,” Poole said.
The Salvation Army has been distributing toys to children for 121 years, and under the program name of Angel Tree for nearly 30 years.
The 35-year-old Kids Yule Love Foundation serves a total 23 counties including Middle and South Georgia. The program founder and Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen said he is grateful for how Macon-Bibb county really stepped up and donated this year too, despite COVID. But because of COVID, this year’s Christmas program will only serve about half the number of children they would normally serve. He said Kids Yule Love was forced to make some hard adjustments.
“We had to cut our ages down to the ages we cut them to and I’m saddened by that because that means kids that are 13, say from from 10 to 13 might not get something this year,” Allen said.
Kids Yule Love is under the umbrella of several charity efforts helping children and seniors year round. Like the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, Kid Yule Love provided cards or tree tags with children’s sizes and toy wishes written on them. Fulfilling these Christmas wishes has always been employees with large plants and warehouses across Middle and South Georgia, Allen said.
“But people are out of jobs, they are not working, and Christmas extras are just not there for them,” he said. “Also, a lot of our businesses that we deal with would not allow us to do Kids Yule Love because of COVID. So we got caught up in a bad situation there.”
Allen said the application process for help is closed at this point, and efforts to ensure the needs of requested applicants will be met. More than 1,000 children will receive toys and clothing items this year.
However, Houston and Macon Counties are among several South Georgia areas still struggling because of COVID. Kids Yule Love is welcoming any donations of toys or monetary help for its southern region counties.
“So what we do if we have enough toys in Bibb County, we have an overload. Right now we have a lot of toys. We give them to our other counties to make sure that those children in those counties are not left out,” Allen said.
Joe Allen also said the public can still give direct donations to Kids Yule Love online or drop off donations at area fire stations. Donors can also give gifts directed to specific counties.
And while the applications process is closed, Allen said the program has always reached out to help families who have their Christmas stolen, or their house is burned and they lose everything.
Gift distribution has wrapped up for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. Kids Yule Love will continue collecting and distributing gifts and clothing through next week.