As the 2022 Give a Christmas campaign to help struggling families enters its fourth week it is evident by the requests for assistance that community need is greater this year than in 2021.
Applications from needy families seeking donations the public makes to the program, sponsored by the Burlington County Times and the nonprofit NJ 211 social services agency, are outpacing last year’s responses at this point in the campaign.
“We’ve received 349 applications from Burlington County families compared to last year at this time when we had only 205 applications,” Kevin Donahue, NJ 211 chief operating officer, said at the end of last week.
The latest jump in the number represents a 71 percent increase in applications.
“So, we’re seeing many more families in need this year. I imagine that is reflective of wider economic factors. Across New Jersey the cost of basic necessities like food and housing keeps going up, and that squeezes the budgets of low-income families,” explained Donahue, who had predicted there would be an uptick in applications this season.
“We’re relying on the generosity of donors to get Christmas gifts to these families, because there really is so much need out there.”
NJ 211 will be taking applications until Dec. 5. That leaves two more weeks for families to apply.
This year the gift certificates will be in the form of $50 Amazon e-gift cards.
“We’re hoping to send out all the Amazon gift cards by mid-December,” Donahue said.
Meanwhile, donations are being received but are lagging behind last year’s giving. As of Friday, the donation total had reached $4,230. Last year the program distributed $60,000 in gift cards to more than 300 eligible family applicants.
So what did parents buy for their children last year? Popular items were stuffed animals, board games like Monopoly, dolls, LEGOs, toy trucks, and dolls.
Cherae Brown of Beverly, a disabled mother of five, has re-applied for the gift certificates this year .
“Its getting a little rough because prices are up and Christmas is right around the corner,” said Brown, who lives in low-income housing and is on a monthly Social Security disability check and has trouble walking and standing.
“The father of four of my children is absent in their lives and pays no child support, so I am thankful I have my Mom and friends and my older kids help out at home with the chores.”She said among the gifts she bought with certificates last Christmas were a Nerf toy and Monopoly game.
“My kids just love Monopoly,” she added.
She wanted to remind the public that a lot of people have “different situations,” including being a single parent like her, and don’t have the money to buy their kids gifts and that depresses some parents and some children, she explained.
“Some kids try to be happy even if they don’t get anything or much at all.”
I am really happy that my kids are thankful for what they get. It may be the smallest thing, but they say, ‘Mommy, oh thank you, thank you!’”
Donations this year will be distributed to needy families with children up to 17 years of age with a maximum of four gift cards per family.
Whether one can afford only a few dollars or $50 or more, all donations will help. Donations received after Dec. 25 will be applied to next year’s campaign.
Visit burlingtoncountytimes.com/GiveaChristmas for instructions on how to donate or how to apply to receive assistance.
Burlington County residents can text GAC to 898211 to check their eligibility to receive donations and file an online application. Eligibility is based on income and recipients may include, but are not limited to, parents with sick children, single family households, people struggling with addiction and people who are unemployed.
They also may phone the NJ211 helpline or visit its website at nj211.org
Carol Comegno loves telling stories about South Jersey life, history and military veterans for the Courier Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal. If you have a story to share, call her at 856-486-2473 or email email@example.com.
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