Christmas Cheer Aids 657 Families
A total of 657 families received assistance through the Fulton County Christmas Cheer “store” last week.
“If that doesn’t break a record, it’s pretty close,” said Cecily Rohrs, director of the program.
Last year, 586 families were served. The increase is about 12.1%.
The number of families served “is definitely up in the last couple of years. There is plenty to do– but fortunately, we live in an area where there is plenty to provide,” she said.
Each year, Christmas Cheer collects donated items, ranging from food and toys to handmade comforters, and sets up a “store” in the Fulton County Junior Fair Building. This year, the store was open Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 21-22.
Families referred to Cheer by the county Department of Job and Family Services can go to the store and shop for items, utilizing a point system. Each family receives a basic box of foodstuffs.
For 2011, ODJFS turned over the names of 742 families to Cheer. Rohrs said 696 basic boxes were prepared.
It’s difficult to pin down a value on the items given away by Christmas Cheer, she said.
“I would say, in actual cost, it’s about $70 per family,” she said. “But in value, how do you put a value on a hand-tied comforter?
“It would be safe to say the value is three times the actual cost, or about $200 per family.”
That puts the total value at more than $130,000.
“People were very grateful,” Rohrs said.
In the approximately 30 years of the program’s existence, Rohrs said the volunteers who operate it have become so efficient, it didn’t take any longer than usual to distribute food and other items to the families.
When Christmas Cheer wrapped up, there was still food– from boxes of cereal to cans of soup– left over. Rohrs said it was donated to food pantries in communities that support Cheer.
In an earlier interview, Rohrs said she was excited about the level of diversity within the volunteers who work with Christmas Cheer.
“We have retirees, farmers, retired professionals, homemakers, students. It’s such a big effort,” she said.
Some special needs students assist with Cheer as well.
Schools and other groups gather canned goods for Cheer. Comforters are made by area church groups. Blankets are purchased from donated funds.
Toys for Christmas Cheer are purchased by three women Rohrs refers to as “elves.”
Chief elves are Michelle Collins and Jessica Short, along with elf Bridget Lovejoy, Archbold.
She said the women shop year-round for toys, looking for advantageous sale prices.
Rohrs said this year’s Cheer store had probably 2,000 hats, mittens, and gloves donated. Some were handmade.
Many who come to the Christmas Cheer store receive food stamps, but Rohrs pointed out there are some things food stamps will not buy.
Those items include laundry detergent, paper products, dish soap, all-purpose cleaner, paper plates and cups, and light bulbs. Many are available at the Christmas Cheer store.
When a person goes through the store, Rohrs said a volunteer shops with them.
“It’s more about relationships than peas and beans,” she said.
Christmas Cheer is about more than Christmas. The program is active all year.
She said she gets Christmas Cheer calls several times a month.
People donate things from cash to cars to the organization.
“People are good to us,” she said.