Drop Off Items
Through Oct. 1
BY LISA WARREN
Gifts for Kids is accepting new and slightly used toys at its collection trailer, on the corner of Cutler and Church streets, in front of Greene County Community Ministries.
Persons can drop off toys on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. now through Oct. 1.
"We're encouraging everyone to make one more swoop through their children's slightly and not-used-any-more toys, bag them up and drop them off," said Jancie Painter, a Gifts for Kids volunteer and board member.
"These donations are greatly appreciated during this time to assist the many families this year that will be faced with a difficult time to provide 'sugar plum dreams' in their childrens' heads on Christmas Eve," Painter said.
The nonprofit organization has for more than 25 years provided Christmas gifts -- used and new toys, dolls, books, games, sometimes bicycles -- for many local children whose families are financially unable to do so.
Originally, the group used the name Toys for Tots, but changed to the name Gifts for Kids to avoid confusion with a similar, already-existing organization by that name based in another community.
All the gifts are routed through the childrens' parents by Gifts for Kids rather than through direct distribution to the children themselves. Parents requesting the assistance sign up in advance, and the actual distribution to them, for their children, is made in December.
HIGH NUMBERS EXPECTED
Due to the recession and high employment in Greene County, Gifts for Kids leaders expect to see a significant increase in the number of families served this year.
"We went from 950 to 1,290 kids last year," said David Peake, board chairman of Gifts for Kids. "And the economy is worse this year."
Greene County's unemployment soared to 17.4 percent in July, up from an already-very-high 16.6 percent in June, the state's Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported.
The current local unemployment rate is the highest for Greene County since 1983.
In addition, a large number of local employers have decreased wages and hours this year among many of their employees who are still working.
"Based on what we're seeing, the number of kids that we're going to serve this year is probably going to go up -- likely by 20 percent," Peake said.
For these reasons, he said, Gifts for Kids foresees a need to serve between 1,500 and 1,600 children this year.
Gifts for Kids will be placing donation boxes in various locations throughout Greeneville in the coming days.
Businesses and organizations that have had one of these collection boxes in the past and would like to have one again this year are asked to contact Painter at 620-9666.
A recent plea for volunteers by Gifts for Kids leaders was answered by a large number of local individuals, Peake said.
"The outreach from the community has been fantastic," he said.
Several church groups and individuals called recently to volunteer their time to the organization, he said.
Other individuals who would like to volunteer with the organization to help sort, clean and repair toys in preparation for the Christmas season should call 636-TOYS (636-8697).