LIMA — It is the season of giving, and many organizations come together to make Christmas a bit brighter for those in need.
One of the bigger causes is through the Salvation Army. You’ve seen the bell ringers out. They do it so others can be helped.
The Salvation Army hopes to raise $120,000 this holiday season, and if the generosity of the area is any indication, they should hit that goal.
“They are a very generous community. We already have several families adopted through our program where people can call and adopt a family, so they know that their siblings are all getting something similar or alike. Sometimes they’ll adopt the mom and the dad just to give them a break — like mom might get some bath stuff, or dad, some tools. It’s great to see how the community just pulls together to just to give back to one another,” said Maj. Debbie Stacy with the Lima Salvation Army.
Money raised by Salvation Army helps area families
“We do food baskets for anybody with 13-year-olds and up. If you have a child under 12, we help with toys for the kids. A lot of people don’t understand it’s not just so they have something at Christmastime, but it also gives them educational toys. It helps with their motor skills. It helps with their fine-tuning. It helps with social interactions [in that] they play games with one another. So we look at the toys a lot more than just getting a toy at Christmastime. It benefits them socially, emotionally,” said Stacy.
Toys for Tots
The U.S. Marine Corps and the Lima Noon Optimist Club have joined the Salvation Army in the annual Toys for Tots program.
“Primarily the Salvation Army does all of the heavy work. They’re the ones that do all of the vetting of applications and sorting of toys as they come in and so on,” said Bill Lewis with the Lima Noon Optimist Club. “I’m kind of in charge of getting everything organized. I work through the Marine Corps out of Triangle, Virginia, which is really Quantico, Virginia, the [Marine Corps] Reserves. I pretty much organize publicity, go out and try to find money, make sure locations are available, talk to as many people as we can to get collection boxes in the facilities, so basically I try to throw it all together and turn it over to the Salvation Army.”
Lewis has also noted the extreme generosity of the Lima community.
“This is one of the more generous communities. Pretty much the people in Ohio are very generous, but this area has been just wonderful. We always fuss and worry about whether we’re going to get enough toys and, bang, right at the end of the campaign we’re just inundated, and we also get enough financial donations that we could go out if we are short in certain areas. Generally, we have shortages in the older kids — 10 to 12-year-olds — but we have enough money we can go out and supplement everything, so we’ll go to Walmart or Meijer and we’ll spend enough money to make sure that we fulfill everything for the older kids also,” said Lewis.
The toys will be distributed Dec. 19 to 21 at the Salvation Army in Lima.
Helping the bell ringers
Donations are still being accepted, and one way people can help is by dropping some change in the kettles in front of one of the many stores that have the Salvation Army bell ringers.
“Our local businesses are wonderful in supporting our hometown and giving back to the community, so they allow us to come out when we start, pretty close to the first week of November,” said Stacy.
Through the bell-ringer campaign, the Salvation Army helps provide services through the rest of the year.
“What a lot of people don’t understand is that it not only helps us at Christmastime, but it also supplements our budget for the biggest part of the whole year. It helps us continue to help people all year round,” said Stacy.
In recent years, the Salvation Army has had to ask for money in the summer when the need is not so obvious.
“That helps the summer slumps. People are on vacation. People are doing their summer thing, so that takes extra money, so our mail appeal — our other fundraising efforts — usually are down a little bit. It helps to make up some of that income to get us through until the next kettle season,” said Stacy.
Santas on wheels
One group that helps tremendously in getting toys to children are the members of A.B.A.T.E., region 3.
In the fall, A.B.A.T.E. holds a toy run where the motorcycle riders can donate money or a toy to participate in the ride.
The support for the cause has been tremendous.
“Without it, we couldn’t do what we do. Allen County has really come across this year for us. We pretty much doubled our children we could support with the money that we got,” said Dana Frost with A.B.A.T.E.
Frost couldn’t be prouder of his fellow bikers.
“They have big hearts. They’re always going on poker runs and stuff, and most of the time, the poker runs they go on are to raise money for somebody, something. They’ve got really big hearts,” said Frost.
Last month, they went to Walmart on the east side of Lima and purchased toys for 120 children.
“WOCAP has a Christmas party that’s going to be held Dec. 21 and we’ll have the gifts all there,” said Frost.
Helping foster kids
Each year around this time, Allen County Children Services helps children in the foster care system have a good experience over the Christmas holiday.
There are two separate programs where the agency tries to help these children.
“Each child that is placed out of the home would get sponsored through the Cole Collection. We currently have 192 children this year that are being served. We also have an adopt-a-family program. This program is for children who are currently living in their home with their family. So they currently have an open case with our agency, but the children have not been removed from the home. They’re still with family. We have at this point 156 children who are being served by that program. The Cole Collection, they hold events and things to raise money to provide for the children. [For] the adopt-a-family program, we actually go out and we try to solicit sponsors within our community. So there are individual families who just want to sponsor or we have businesses who sponsor, sometimes multiple families, and we solicit those sponsors and match them with them the families we have,” said Staci Nichols, program administrator at Allen County Children Services.
Nichols is astonished by how much people help.
“People tend to be very generous during the holiday season, but it’s overwhelming. [They are] more generous than I would have thought. Through the generosity of these individuals and businesses that have just really opened their hearts and their wallets, we’ve been able to help hundreds of kids during the holiday season for the last several years,” said Nichols.
Keeping the food pantry stocked
At this time of the year, there’s always a push to help stock the shelves at area food pantries.
“There’s always a need. There’s always people that just need that extra. We see people through our doors every day. We have a food pantry that runs every day, so we always have people coming in and there’s the emergency needs,” said Stacy.
Over at the Churches United Pantry (CUP), the need is more pronounced near the holidays.
“The children are going to be home a lot more, so there are more meals that need to be in the home for them. People are paying heat bills. Christmas is coming. People have a lot of other financial obligations to fulfill at this point in the year, and we provide them with three days worth of food that can help stretch their budgets and get them through the tough times,” said Mary Stepleton, board president.
CUP serves 750 families every month, which totals about 2,000 people every month. She’s impressed with how the community has supported their mission.
“We see businesses and organizations that get together and provide us food. They also provide financially for us. They give us monetary gifts and they are very generous over the holiday season,” said Stepleton.
Without the generosity of the Lima area, the program would be in jeopardy.
“It makes it really difficult for us to scramble daily for us to get food on the shelves without all of the extra support that we get. It is essential to the survival of our program because without the donations and without money, we can’t continue. It takes money to be able to purchase food that we have on our shelves. The first place we buy it from is from the West Ohio Food Bank. If they don’t have it, we have to go to the grocery stores like everybody else and purchase our food for those shelves in our pantry,” said Stepleton.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.