With the holiday season creeping up, families are feeling the crunch of the still ailing economy when they think about Christmas expenses. This is why organizers of the Holiday Basket Project are sending out their request for local sponsors for the Holiday Basket Project.
“Right before Thanksgiving kicks in is when people start thinking about it is the worst, from September through now,” said Donna Marx, one of the four co-chairs of the project. “Hopefully (donations) will pick up soon because people will start thinking about Thanksgiving. It’s an amazing community, and people come through every time.”
The project, which began 38 years ago, accepts applications from families in need and matches each with a basket sponsor. In addition to individuals and families who choose to assist a family, basket sponsors include businesses, service organizations, clubs, churches, nonprofit agencies, school groups, Scouts and university organizations.
In 2012, 1,354 families received baskets, which contain food items for a holiday meal or a gift certificate to a local grocery store and gifts with approximately $25 for each child in the family.
Marx said one of the greatest needs for the project, as it seems to be every year, will be gift cards for teenagers. “We always run short, because a lot of family sponsors want families with little children. But if we get families in need that are single households or have older children, we often don’t have money for the gift cards.”
“People don’t want to get gifts for teens,” said Karen Aldinger, another project coordinator. “They don’t want to have to buy a gift card because they want to get the fun things. But teens appreciate it when they get something, too.”
Major sponsors in 2012 were Operation Bootstrap, which provided 553 baskets; The Salvation Army, which provided 152 baskets; St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 72 baskets; Elks Lodge, 60 baskets; St. Bronislava Catholic Church, 52 baskets; Sentry Cares, 54 baskets; Knights of Columbus, 50 baskets; and the Plover-Whiting Lions Club, 19 baskets.
In addition, 342 baskets were provided by individuals, families, businesses, service and social clubs, churches, schools, nonprofit agencies, university groups and Scout/4-H/teen groups.
The Portage County Health and Human Services Department and WSCN radio through its “Christmas Is for Children” campaign are also among the major contributors to the project by donating Christmas gifts for children.
“The reason Holiday Baskets exists is to try to coordinate and eliminate duplication so that a family doesn’t get a basket from a church, then from a school or some other sponsor,” Aldinger said. “If a sponsor sees they receive other gifts, they can be put off a bit. So we try to avoid duplication. We’re like a clearing house of families. We take the applications and we also take the applications for sponsors and we match them.”
She said duplication does occur when efforts aren’t coordinated. “We run into it, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid so that we can help more families. That explains our existence.”
“I think this community is great,” said Aldinger. “If we put out the word that we need food, people are pretty generous in this community.”
She said the project is especially important because of what the holiday season means to people. “The thing about Christmas is that most parents probably wouldn’t care about receiving gifts themselves, but their children care about gifts, so there is more pressure at the holidays. Parents want their children to be happy. They feel the need more at Christmas. With heating costs and everything else, families just don’t have enough money.”
Individuals or groups interested in becoming a basket sponsor should call 715-344-9950 for an application.