Many needs, ways to give back this season

Nov. 10, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

November is here, and with it comes donation drives for the upcoming holiday season.

Toys for Tots, the annual gift drive operated by the U.S. Marine Corps, kicked off Thursday and will be accepting toy donations at dozens of local businesses, churches, government offices and other locations until mid-December.

"Last year, we helped about 825 families," local coordinator J.J. Cuff Jr. said, noting that some families had as many as seven or eight children get toys through the program. "There's a lot of people in Lee County who are in need."

Dropoff boxes are placed at Walmart, Temple Theatre, the Carolina Trace golf shop, the Lee County Courthouse, both local Walgreens, a half-dozen beauty parlors and many more locations. People can find more information, or sign up to give a financial donation, at sanford-nc.toysfortots.org. A full list of drop sites can be found via the website's "Toy Drop-Offs" tab.

Cuff said anyone who is able to give and who remembers the joy of running to the tree on Christmas morning to rip open wrapping paper should consider donating toys or cash to help the less fortunate have a similar experience. All of the money raised here for Toys for Tots will stay local.

Anyone who's applying also has to be able to prove that he or she lives in Lee County and is the parent or guardian of the children. Cuff also asked that each family say how many children are girls and how many are boys, and that they leave a reliable telephone number in case Toys for Tots needs to contact them.

Families can pick up toys from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Sanford Lions Club Fairgrounds, and nonprofits can go from 9 a.m. to noon on Dec. 20. Those who want to apply to receive gifts, or people who want to donate or volunteer, can contact Cuff at (919) 622-7498 or jjcuff@gmail.com. He said families who need clothing, food or anything other than toys must look elsewhere, though.

One group that does provide a range of support — toys, clothes, food and even utility assistance — is the Salvation Army, which is located in the Lee County Arts and Community Center at 507 N. Steele St. and is starting up its red kettle, Angel Tree and stocking stuffer programs.

Terry Hertzog, who serves as the local Salvation Army sergeant with his wife, Barbara, said volunteers are badly needed for all three programs.

People who want to sign up to ring bells in the group's most famous fundraiser are still needed, Hertzog said; anyone interested can call his cell phone at (919) 478-1353 or the Salvation Army office at (919) 718-1717. Bell ringing begins Nov. 22 and lasts through Christmas. The group still has 600-700 Angel Tree requests to give out as well and is looking for people to help fill stockings.

"We desperately need sponsors for them," Hertzog said.

The Salvation Army is a Christian group, but for an even more evangelical twist on giving, people can donate toys as well as school supplies, personal items and other small gifts at a local drop-off center for Operation Christmas Child. Volunteers with Samaritan's Purse — a nondenominational Christian group led by Billy Graham's son, Franklin, that coordinates Operation Christmas Child and other charity efforts — will then take the donations, package them together with Christian pamphlets and ship them all around the world.

Nearby Operation Christmas Child drop-off locations are: Jonesboro Heights Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Pittsboro Baptist Church in Pittsboro, Loves Creek Baptist Church in Siler City, Crossroads Church in Lillington and Fairview Baptist Church in West End.

More information can be found at www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/drop-off-locations.