Six Spirit of Christmas campaigns are in full swing across the county. But progress differs among them, seemingly related to the structure of the drive.
The Bridgeport and Decatur campaigns, which have enacted a voucher system, had reached or were close to reaching their goals by the deadlines.
The Alvord, Boyd, Chico and South Wise campaigns, which have preserved the well-known “shopping and donating” method, still had a handful of Angels waiting to be adopted as of this week – some as many as half of the total.
Here’s a breakdown by community:
As of Wednesday, 11 of the 69 angels remain on the tree at Legend Bank. Although the number left is lower than the amount left at this point last year, the angel total is up 20 from 2011.
“I think it’s just the economy,” said Diane Stachowiak, one of the organizers. “People don’t have as much money as they normally would have. Every child has been on some kind of government help.
“Normally, we have the same families pretty much every year. We may have a few new ones, but most that are on there have been on our Spirit of Christmas before. It’s really exciting not to see their name pop back up, because you assume they are doing better.
“But if they do have to ask for help, we are glad we can.”
Stachowiak added that the angels range in age from an unborn baby to a senior in high school.
Organizers receive applications through the school district and the bank. Once approved, committee members hand-write a wish list based on requests submitted with the application.
Gifts for the angels are due Friday, Dec. 14.
The Boyd campaign has seen its share of struggles this year. Twenty-five of the 149 angels set out the Monday before Thanksgiving remain on the trees.
That is a typical “leftover number” which are covered by the campaign’s bank account. However, after being hit hard over the summer, the fund is out $2,000.
Organizer Jana Tate is attempting to recover the funds, and even if she is successful, she likely won’t have the money in time to contribute to this year’s campaign.
Because of the campaign’s magnitude, organizers had to abandon the drives for pillow, blankets and heaters held in conjunction with the Spirit of Christmas campaigns in the past.
“It’s gotten too big,” Tate said. “When I took over, we were helping about 30 families. Last year we had 69 families. The logistics of handling everything was too much.”
This year, the number of families approved is down because of a change in requirements. Families did not qualify if they had been helped three consecutive years.
“We had some families that were helped for 13 years,” Tate said. “That’s not temporary assistance. That’s lifestyle.”
Angels are available at First Financial Bank, Wells Fargo and the Market Place in town. Gifts are due Monday. Dec. 10.
As of Friday afternoon, the Bridgeport campaign of the Spirit of Christmas was on track to meet its goal to help 142 children and 64 families this holiday season.
Organizers will make one last push at the Home for the Holidays events Saturday in downtown. A tree will be setup near the Bridgeport Stage.
Twenty-four of the 65 Angels in Chico’s campaign are left on the tree at First State Bank. And with only $8 in the campaign’s fund, organizers are desperately reaching out to the community.
Some businesses and organizations have responded. Organizers set a donation jar at Chico Mart, which along with Chico Market Place and the high school gym will be the location of a bake sale 10 a.m. today (Saturday). Proceeds will be used by the Chico Middle School FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) to adopt Spirit of Christmas Angels.
Organizer Theresa Southwick said that in the past, teachers in the district have adopted an angel in lieu of buying gifts for one another and the schools have placed collection boxes for toys. Southwick, who drives a TAPS bus, said a lady on her route has also donated clothes and toys and made candy cane holders for the Chico campaign
The drive approved just about the same number of Angels as last year. They were set on the Angel tree the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Angel gifts are due Friday, Dec. 14, so that volunteers can organize and distribute the donations before Christmas break.
Despite a slow start, all Angels in the Decatur campaign were accounted for by Wednesday afternoon.
“So many in the community have come through that we are going to be able to help every family,” said chairperson Erica Eison. “We’ve had people donate wrapping paper, donate meat, donate food. We are so, so thankful.”
The drive held its first distribution Thursday.
For the second consecutive year, no Spirit of Christmas campaign was organized in Paradise. However some community members feel the need is there.
But children in need are not going without. The town’s schools each hold various drives – stuffed animals, clothes and canned food -benefiting districts students in need.
More than half of the angels on the South Wise Spirit of Christmas campaign awaited adoption two weeks after the record-high total of 98 were set out.
Although the number of individuals is a climb from last year’s 79, organizers say the number of families being assisted is about the same.
“It’s another record-breaking year for us,” said Cindi Misner, who organizes the drive with the help of fellow members of the congregation at Rhome United Methodist Church. “It’s not that many more families. It’s bigger families, families with more children. And you’d be surprised how many grandparents are raising their grandkids, too.”
As of Friday morning, 13 angels remained on the tree at Woodhaven National Bank and 28 at Wells Fargo, both in Rhome.
Tammye Byers with Woodhaven said that monetary donations to the campaign’s bank account were low.
“We’ve gotten a couple of donations, but not nearly what we normally get,” she said. Big Z Travel Center and the McDonald’s in Rhome have helped the campaign. But that supply does not sufficiently provide for an increasing demand.
“Our account numbers are low,” Misner said. “I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to continue. But we’ll just keep plugging along until we can’t.”
Donations are due Thursday, Dec. 13, to prepare for distribution on Sunday, Dec. 16.