How to help
Operation Christmas Blessing
Needed items: Toys, stockings, stocking stuffers, monetary donations, clothes, shoes, food
Where: Donations can be made to Lifeline Mission Center, 1607 Calvary Church Road, Gainesville
Contact: 678-638-9578, www.lifelinenow.org
Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade
Needed items: New and unwrapped comfortable clothes, slippers, board games, card decks, stationary, diaries, stationary, G-rated movies, wrapping paper and bows
Where: Donations can be made at the Gainesville Community Service Center, 430 Prior St. SE, Gainesville, or dropped off at any Gainesville fire station, 725 Pine St., 310 Piedmont Road, 3335 Nancy Creek Road or 2163 Memorial Park Road. Checks can be made out to the Gainesville Community Service Center
Other holiday charities
Empty Stocking Fund: www.gainesvillejaycees.org
Toys for Tots: gainesville-ga.toysfortots.org
Salvation Army: www.uss.salvationarmy.org
When Christmas morning rolls around, a child’s good behavior is awarded with presents under the tree.
But for some less fortunate children, it doesn’t matter how good they’ve been; there are few presents, and often no tree.
That’s why several area organizations are holding toy drives to put Christmas morning smiles on the faces of needy kids.
Since 1955, the Gainesville Jaycees have filled empty stockings. This year, the group purchased gifts for more than 225 local children through its annual Empty Stocking Fund, which begins raising money in August.
The group met at Walmart on Shallowford Road in Gainesville early Saturday morning to purchase gifts and essential items like clothes and shoes.
Andrew Thomason, organizer of the event, said the fund is a great way for the community to show children that they care.
“It’s such a nice thing to end the year on, and it being right here in the Christmas season where we can give back to the communities, that’s really what it’s all about,” Thomason said. “We do as much as we can, but it’s only as successful as the Hall County community makes it.”
Though the difficult economy has caused a slight decrease in donations, Thomason said most people in the area are inclined to help out however they can.
The presents will be distributed to the families at a skating party Monday. Nearly 800 people are expected to attend.
Another local organization is bringing the joy of Christmas door to door with Operation Christmas Blessing. This will be the first time LifeLine Mission Center, a new church in Gainesville, will hold the holiday drive, but the center has season-specific drives each month.
The center will be accepting donations of toys, clothes, stockings, stocking stuffers and necessary items to distribute to several area neighborhoods through Dec. 21.
“We will literally go house to house in these low-income neighborhoods and very discreetly go and ask the parents if they need anything for their kids for the holidays,” Wanda Atkins, co-pastor of LifeLine said.
Atkins said the purpose of the distribution is to let people know that there are people who do really care about them and want to help and to share the Gospel.
Sometimes, she said, the best way to do that is by meeting their material needs.
“The economy is so tough for so many people right now that you’ve got a lot of families living week to week,” Atkins said. “And that’s not just in the low-income areas, that’s everywhere. Folks are having a really tough time.”
Atkins said the hope is that no child will have to go without at Christmas or any time of the year.
Donations can be made in person at the center, 1607 Calvary Church Road, Gainesville, or online at www.lifelinenow.org.
But local organizations also want to make Christmas special for adults. For some living in mental health hospitals, the holidays can be a lonely time.
For the last 50 years, cities from all over Georgia have been participating in the Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade. Gainesville has been participating in the event since it began and is among the largest contributors, event coordinator Carol LaMonica said.
The motorcade is collecting items to distribute to Avita Community Partners, which will distribute gifts to group homes throughout the Northeast Georgia area.
Donation boxes are set up at all four city fire stations and at the Gainesville Community Service Center on Prior Street. City employees and the general public are asked to donate gift items by Wednesday.
LaMonica said needed items include anything that would make a person feel “huggy and snuggy.” Items like bathrobes, comfortable clothes, socks, slippers, diaries, G-rated movies, decks of cards and tote bags get a lot of use, LaMonica said.
“Just think about in your daily life the things that bring you comfort,” LaMonica said.
“Anything you might use on a day-to-day basis. It doesn’t have to be fancy.”
The motorcade will present Avita with any monetary donations at Thursday morning’s Gainesville City Council work session.
LaMonica, coordinator for the event for the last seven years, said she never knows how much has been donated until the last minute, but she’s always pleasantly surprised.
Each year, she said, there are enough gifts to fill a nine-passenger van from floor to ceiling.
If there are gifts left over from Christmas, the presents are used for special events like birthdays throughout the year to remind patients that they are cared for.
“It’s very heartwarming. It’s a very big satisfaction for me. I take pride in it,” LaMonica said. “It’s nice in the holidays to know you can bring joy to someone, it’s nice to give back.”