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Still time to help stuff stockings

Toy drives need more gifts for older children

POSTED: December 17, 2012 12:01 a.m.

Little kids aren’t the only ones who look forward to getting a few gifts on Christmas Eve. Older children and teenagers enjoy getting presents just as much as the younger children.
But donations for two local toy drives are running a little low in gifts for children in that age group.
Hall-Dawson CASA is holding a toy drive for the children in its program until Tuesday.
Toys and basic items like clothes, toiletries and monetary donations can be made at the CASA office, 603 Washington St., Gainesville.

CASA serves children who find themselves in the court system through no fault of their own. These children, for various reasons, have been removed from their homes and placed into the foster care system.

Connie Stephens, executive director, said there seem to be more children entering the program this holiday season.

“I think a lot of people are out of work and families are in crisis mode. There’s more drug abuse and the kids are being neglected more,” Stephens said.

For these children Christmas is often a sad holiday, as they have to spend it away from their homes and families. Often there just aren’t enough resources to provide gifts for Christmas.

Stephens said there are some 350 children in the program. The goal of the drive is to be able to provide gifts for all of the children.

CASA child advocates are volunteers who speak on behalf of the child’s best interests while they’re in the court system.

Over time, the advocates form relationships with the children and get to know who they are. The advocates will be picking out toys from the donations to take to the children.

“They become like Santa Clauses; that’s a really joyous part,” Stephens said.

Stephens said the organization has received several donations of toys for younger children but it still needs gifts and basic necessities to provide for the needs of children of all ages, particularly the teenagers.

Any donations that aren’t distributed for Christmas will be used to provide gifts for birthdays and special occasions to the children throughout the year.

Another charity toy drive is also noticing a shortage of gifts for older children.

Toys for Tots in Hall County, sponsored by Detachment 665 of the Marine Corps League, provides toys for less fortunate children.

Emilio Salinas, junior past commandant, said the donations are coming in, but they’re coming in a little later than in previous years.

“(Toys) for older kids (are) primarily where we fall short,” Salinas said.

The group is also seeking donations specifically for children between the ages and birth and 2 years and 9 to 12.

Salinas said the donations received locally this year seem to be a bit bigger and more expensive than in other years. Which he said is not a bad thing, but it does cut down on the number of gifts the group is able to distribute.

While the amount of donations is somewhat lower, the number of people seeking gifts for their children has risen.

“I think there’s more and more families that are in need,” Salinas said.

The group has distributed more than 8,000 toys already this year.

Salinas said the toy drive is rewarding but it can be heartbreaking. Some of the families who have applied for toys for their children have experienced misfortunes. Many families have simply gone without since losing a job while other families have lost everything in house fires.

Salinas said the Marines try to pick out specific items for families that have lost all their possessions.

“For these special circumstances, we might give a hair curling iron to a girl that’s old enough to be able to use (it). Other kids, they might get a bicycle,” Salinas said.

Toys and gifts can be dropped off at any of the 100 drop sites in Hall County. Sites include Regions banks, Publix grocery stores, the Marine recruiting stations and the main library branch in Gainesville.


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