One sign of a challenging economy is the number of Social Services clients seeking holiday assistance this year. The program served 281 families last year; this year, that number has increased to 430 families.
Stafford annually facilitates a holiday program for needy families, children and the elderly to provide meals for Thanksgiving and gifts and meals for Christmas. With the need being so great this year, Stafford Social Services is asking for monetary donations, gifts and food. Social Services will accept food and new unwrapped gifts at the Regester Chapel UMC Youth Center, 106 Regester Chapel Road, Stafford, VA 22554, on Monday, December 12, from 1:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
"The number of people in our program has almost doubled this year, and many of the families are large families, with a lot of teenagers," said Erin Riley, Program Coordinator for the Stafford County Department of Social Services. "Our community has always been very generous, and I am confident we can count upon its support this year."
The program serves families, children and seniors who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF). Social Services provides a "Santa's Toy Shop" for parents to pick out toys for their children. Often, these contacts help Social Services further help those in need. Last year, a new baby's father came in, and staff helped him pick out diapers, a winter coat, soft toys and bath toys. He mentioned his baby was sleeping in an old drawer. Staff had just received a sturdy, like-new crib. It would not fit in the man's car, but he came back during his lunch break in his work truck to pick up the crib. He was so proud he could provide for his child.
A mother and her two daughters fled a domestic violence situation with nothing but clothes on their backs. They had just moved to a new apartment and were added to the Holiday Program so late they had not had time to make a list. Staff spoke with her, and the mom broke down and admitted how little they had. Staff was able to help the very grateful mother get curtains, bedding, kitchen supplies and toiletries to make their new apartment warm and inviting for the holidays.
Sponsors (individuals, families or organizations) may give money, gifts or food. They can sponsor a whole family or just one person. In particular, Social Services ask that you try to buy the gifts listed online to ensure uniformity among the gifts. As well they ask that sponsors purchase gift cards for teenage children.