2017 Give A Christmas supports those struggling with poverty

By Chris Ruvo:

After her partner abandoned her and their children, the young mother from Bucks County found herself trapped in a catch-22.

She needed a job to support her kids, but she couldn’t afford the child care that would allow her to work and earn.

The pressure and pain of the predicament intensified as the holiday season closed in.

“I have no income to buy presents,” said the mother.

She detailed her situation in a letter to the Bucks County Opportunity Council in which she asked for assistance from Give A Christmas, an annual holiday season campaign that raises funds to lend a helping hand to families grappling with poverty in Central and Upper Bucks County, as well as Eastern Montgomery County and the North Penn and Indian Valley communities.

The Opportunity Council, which conducts the campaign in partnership with The Intelligencer, was happy to step in and support the mother and her children with some much-deserved support through Give A Christmas.

For 30 years now, Give A Christmas has been providing similar aid to less fortunate locals. That the initiative can do so is down to the generosity of the community, which has donated nearly $2.8 million since the program began in the late 1980s.

“We continue to be struck by the extreme kindness of our community and the extreme appreciation of the recipients,” said Erin A. Lukoss, executive director of the Bucks County Opportunity Council.

This year’s Give A Christmas outreach got underway a couple weeks ago. Within the first day-and-a-half, the BCOC had assisted 61 families — some 198 people in total.

“One of our staff members reported that within the first nine minutes of opening the doors, she had assisted four families,” said Lukoss.

Give A Christmas donations help fund a range of assistance initiatives, from helping parents buy gifts and groceries, to aiding with rent payments, medical bills and utility needs.

In 2016, generous Intelligencer readers contributed $126,594.64 to the cause — an impressive showing that organizers hope will be surpassed this year.

“This program gives parents the joy of fulfilling a holiday wish for a child,” Lukoss has said. “While Give A Christmas helps families and individuals at Christmas, the donations received are also used to help community members in need all year long. It’s like a safety ‘trampoline’ in that it catches people when they fall, and helps them bounce back to stability.”

More locals are in need of that helpful leg up than might be realized in a surface-level glance at the relative affluence of many local communities. Still, government data shows that 6.6 percent of Bucks County alone — nearly 42,000 people — live below the poverty line. Many others are just above, unable to make ends meet.

To help these neighbors in need, the Opportunity Council administers the Give A Christmas fund, 10 percent of the proceeds from which are shared with the Souderton-based Keystone Opportunity Center. The two community action agencies identify individuals and families who need financial assistance during the holidays.

During the 2016 holiday season, the Opportunity Council provided assistance to 441 families (1,308 individuals). The average assistance per family was $176. Families served had an average income of $14,844.

This year, Intelligencer readers have the chance to increase the number of people helped by donating to support the Give A Christmas mission — a mission powered by the true spirit of the holiday season.

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