Christmas drives face great needs in 2010

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By Reece Murphy

By Richard Eckstrom

American essayist Hamilton Wright Mabie once said of Christmas, “Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
With the Christmas season upon us, there are several such conspiracies afoot in Lancaster County, all of them aimed at bringing joy to struggling families.
And this year, there’s a lot of people struggling, organizers say – more than any time in their recent memory.
So here’s your chance to get in on the conspiracy and help the following organizations bring Christmas cheer to a family in need right here at home.
Operation Rudolph
Larry and Linda Catledge have been organizing Operation Rudolph in Kershaw for 18 years. The Catledges said the need is greater this year with 121 applications, a number that includes 300 to 400 children.
“It’s been what you would say is a tough year this year,” Larry Catledge said.
Operation Rudolph provides children with toys, bicycles, computers, bookbags and clothing, such as winter clothes coats and shoes.
Applications for assistance are being accepted at KARE (Kershaw Area Resource Exchange) at 110 Hart St.
Applications will be accepted one more time – between 1 and 4 p.m. Friday.
Operation Rudolph receives major funding from the Stevens Foundation.
“We’re asked (by God) to help someone,” Linda Catledge said. “This is the time of year for giving.”
For details on Operation Rudolph, call the Catledges at (803) 475-4438.
Angel Tree
Marcine Bufford, coordinator of the Angel Tree drive at Christian Services in Lancaster, said the need for her organization’s program is great. The drive is one of the better known Christmas charities in the county.
But there are still 124 angels that no one has picked up. That number doesn’t include all the angels still hanging on trees at a variety of local businesses. Each angel represents a child in need of a Christmas present.
“Usually by now I’d only have about 10 families left,” Bufford said.
It’s easy to take part in the drive. Pick an angel from the tree, see the request and follow the instructions.
There are Angel Trees at Walmart, Curves, Gus’s Family Restaurant, Ryan’s Steakhouse, Applebee’s, Bojangles’, Lancaster Pawn and Jewelry, Papa John’s and Studio Salon, all in Lancaster. Angels are also available at the Big View Diner in Ballantyne.
Bufford is confident things will work out in the end.
“Lancaster never lets us down,” she said. “We know they’ll come through.”
Donations will be accepted through Dec. 22.
Donations, cash or gifts, may be dropped off at Christian Services, 200 E. Dunlap St., Lancaster, or Carolina Payday Loans and at Woodforest Bank inside the Lancaster Walmart. For details, call (803) 286-5112 or (803) 285-4444.
Christmas Basket
The Christmas Basket Fund is a tradition that started more than 50 years ago as a food drive. The program now provides food gift cards based on the family’s needs and size.
HOPE in Lancaster has spearheaded the drive for the past few years.
“There’s a lot of need,” said Elaine Adkins, director of HOPE. “We’ve had so many new people who’ve never had to come to HOPE in the past. It’s really been hard for them.”
HOPE helps families with emergency funds for bills, heating and other necessities, including food from its food pantry.
Adkins said the best way to help the Christmas Basket is to make a monetary donation to buy gift cards. Donations may be mailed to Operation Christmas Basket, P.O. Box 166, Lancaster, S.C., 29721, or dropped off at The Lancaster News offices at 701 N. White St.
“We understand that a lot of people in the community at this time have been affected by the economy and unemployment,” Adkins said. “But we do hope the everyone will reach down and dig deep and contribute to help their neighbors who are in need.”
Panhandle project
One of the most popular Christmas charities in the Panhandle is the annual project operated by the Pleasant Valley and Indian Land volunteer fire departments, Explorer Post 14 and local churches. The drive, which doesn’t have a name, started in 1992.
“There weren’t that many then, maybe seven or eight families,” Pleasant Valley Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Keith Wilson said. “The number got up, and then about five years ago, it dropped down again when the economy was doing good. Now, it’s going back up.”
How far up?
Wilson’s wife, Susan, said organizers have been forced to turn some folks away, sending them to other charities.
“We have 33 families, the biggest number we’ve had since we’ve been doing this; last year we had 21,” Susan Wilson said. “I’ve had to tell eight families we have no more resources. It’s such a hard thing to do.
“I guess everybody is trying to help everybody and there’s not enough to go around,” she said. “It always works out, but it’s very stressful.”
Indian Land schools identify needy families and provide the names. The fire departments send out four anonymous tags for each child to other organizations or individuals who want to help, asking for two toys and two articles of clothing. The fire departments gather the gifts, and with the help of Santa Claus himself, deliver the presents directly to the families on Christmas Eve.
Churches provide the families with food, while the Explorer Scouts check, or if needed, install smoke detectors during the visits to the families.
“It’s good when you walk in and the kids see those presents, their eyes get so big,” Explorer Scout Josh Barfield said of his experience with the program. “I couldn’t imagine being a kid and not having Christmas.”
Keith Wilson said the best way for the community to help is by donating cash, which will help augment the program. For details, call the Pleasant Valley Volunteer Fire Department at (803) 548-5600.
“If we help each other, it’ll all go smoother for everybody; when things are going good for yourself, you help others,” Keith Wilson said. “That’s what Christmas is all about.”
Van Wyck drive
For nine years, Van Wyck postmaster Betty George and others have provided Christmas presents for children and food and other items for senior citizens.
This year, they’re helping families as well as the children, and the need is immense, George said.
“We did 40 kids this year, and normally we only do about 12,” George said. “And then I’ve got families I didn’t have last year.
“I knew the economy would be bad, but not this bad – I was shocked,” George said. “On one of the wish lists, a man asked for a job.”
George said even though all the children’ names have been taken, there’s still room to help since it’s not unusual for people not to follow through on their pledge when the deliveries start Dec. 15.
There’s still a great need for food to feed all the families and senior citizens in need.
Those interested in helping may drop off cash donations or canned goods to the post office at 5222 Old Hickory Road. For details, call the post office at (803) 283-2135.
“Be kind,” George said. “Think of it as if it was you who needed the help.”

Contact Reece Murphy at rmurphy@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151