Project Santa Needs Help

By: Jodi Baker Email
By: Jodi Baker Email

The relatively mild weather we've seen in the metro could actually be hindering the help for those in need.

"Volunteers just don't think of us until it's cold outside," said Open Door Mission President Candace Gregory.

Those who are helping are working at a feverish pace to get gifts of donated new toys ready, for struggling parents to place under the Christmas tree.

Since the holiday falls on a Sunday, Gregory said, they have a week's less time to get those gift bags ready. And they're facing a shortage of manpower and presents as the need for help has increased by 37 percent this year.

"We were hit hard this summer by the flood. But even prior to that, the economy was challenging," Gregory said. "We've seen a 30 percent increase in food costs, an increase in O.P.P.D., M.U.D. and bus tickets. I mean, how far can you stretch a dollar?"

The Open Door Mission hopes to be able to help 6,000 metro children this holiday season.

Among four volunteers at the shelter during a visit from Channel 6 News, were Rose and Vince Emery. "No child should go without a present at Christmas time," Rose said.

That's why she and her husband have volunteered for "Project Santa" for several years now. "I can think back to when I grew up... I grew up in a large family in south Omaha, and I remember how hard it is. And now that we have so much, we just think it's time to give back," she said.

Their volunteer duties include sorting gifts by age, and compiling family-specific bags. While most of the donations have been for younger children, stuffed animals and dolls and the like, items for older children like arts and crafts supplies and games are still needed. The Open Door Mission serves children up to the age of eighteen.

"Children from low-income families tend to take on adult responsibilities at a young age so that mom and dad can work that second minimum wage job," Gregory pointed out. "So we find, often times, that they're the ones forgotten."

Rose doesn't want any child to be forgotten, especially not during the holidays. She said she gets more out of volunteering than she gives. "Oh, it makes your heart warm," she said. "It puts a smile on my face."

The Open Door Mission is looking for volunteers to help bag toys Monday-Thursday 10am-8pm and Friday-Saturday 10am-5pm. For more information about Project Santa, click here.

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