Cecily Rohrs, chairman of the Fulton County Christmas Cheer program, said the annual program will probably end up providing toys, food, and other items to about 700 Fulton County families this holiday season.
The Fulton County Department of Job and Family Services selected 1,500 families as eligible for Christmas Cheer, the decades-old program originally started by the Fulton County Commissioners.
Rohrs has been in charge of the operation for 26 years.
She said Monday the program was “just a few short of 700” families signing up. While the deadline has passed, “there are always exceptions,” she said.
This year, between Monday, Dec. 13 and Thursday, Dec. 16, eligible families can go to the Fulton County Fairgrounds, where a “mall” of sorts is set up.
There will be one “store” set up with toys. Families are given a certain number of “points,” which they can use to shop for toys.
They can then go to a second store, receive an allotment of points, and select food, blankets, and personal hygiene items.
At one time, the toys and other items were in one store, but it was discovered families were spending all of their points on toys, she said.
Christmas Cheer has always involved many different organizations.
“We have lots and lots of volunteers,” Rohrs said.
•Fulton County FFA chapters are raising money to purchase toys. It is the second year FFAers have raised money for Cheer.
•Residents of Fulton Suites, the assisted-living portion of the Fulton Manor nursing home, stuffed envelopes to invite families to participate.
The envelopes weren’t addressed until after they were stuffed to protect the privacy of the potential participants.
•Special needs persons assisted in packing boxes at the county fairgrounds.
•Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) students from Archbold High School will assist shoppers on Dec. 15. Pettisville High School FCCLA students will assist on Dec. 16.
•People from St. John’s Christian Church will be on hand early on the morning of Dec. 13 to serve hot cocoa to people who have been waiting in line for hours the night before the stores open. It is the second year for St. John’s to provide the service.
With the area economy still lagging, Rohrs said many households that were getting by are finding themselves in need.
“They don’t have what they used to have,” she said.
As a result, Cheer is seeking more monetary donations.
“We’re looking for more money than usual.”
Typically, Rohrs said Cheer raises between $20,000 and $35,000, of which about $20,000 is spent to purchase toys.
In the past, what Cheer didn’t spend was used throughout the next year to help with things like prescriptions or car repairs.
Also in the past, she said some families had been willing to give, but she had told them Christmas Cheer was in good shape, and to donate to other organizations.
This year, she said she has sent letters to those families asking them to donate to Cheer.
She said she’s shooting for $50,000.
Rohrs said she is seeing some changes in the local economy.
Those in need still cannot find jobs that provide a paycheck and benefits that can support a family and provide economic stability.
“Families are falling apart,” because of that lack of stability, she said.
There are day jobs, parttime jobs, and/or temporary jobs becoming available. Over the last two years, she said hiring for those jobs had been “almost at a standstill.”