In the one bedroom apartment in Upper Bucks County, the single mother sits looking at the small Christmas tree tucked in the corner of the cramped living room.
Her two children sleep in the bedroom, but her bed is the couch out here. Still, she can’t sleep. She keeps looking at the tree. To keep the lights on it lit, she needs to pay the electric bill. But if she does, there’ll be nothing left for Christmas — not after doctor bills from the kids’ recent bout of bronchitis wiped out what little she’d saved from her minimum-wage retail job.
She knows her children expect Santa to leave a couple presents beneath the tree — that they’ll be crushed if they find only a few scraps of fallen tinsel. How, she wonders, stomach steel-clenched, can she provide her kids with a Christmas?
An answer is with the help of The Intelligencer’s annual Give A Christmas Fund.
Administered by the Bucks County Opportunity Council, with 10 percent of the proceeds shared with the Keystone Opportunity Center, the fund provides financial assistance to individuals and families in need during the holidays.
Benefitting needy locals in Central and Upper Bucks County, as well as Eastern Montgomery County and the North Penn and Indian Valley communities, the fund provides a variety of assistance. That includes everything from help with buying gifts and groceries, to paying rent, medicine bills and utility expenses.
“Our Give A Christmas goal is to brighten the holidays of families in need,” said Joseph Cuozzo, director of development at the Bucks County Opportunity Council.
Of course, that can only happen if the local community is generous with donations. Indeed, it is donations from individuals, businesses and families that provide the financial fuel for the fund. Over the years, the community has stepped up in a major way, contributing $2.9 million since Give A Christmas began in 1988.
“Give A Christmas is near and dear to my heart,” said Shane Fitzgerald, executive editor for The Intelligencer. “Good people helped my family when I was a kid in a similar fashion, and I’m forever grateful for that. I know it means a lot to the families who are touched by our community’s generosity.”
Last year alone, that outpouring of generosity generated $139,439.46. The tally empowered the Opportunity Council to provide assistance to 472 families (1,465 individuals). Average assistance per family was $187. Of the families served, average household income amounted to $16,211.
“It’s difficult to express how proud I am of the employees and community partners who come together each year to make Give A Christmas a success,” said Jake Volcsko, general manager of The Intelligencer. “There is a lot of work and detail that goes into making the program run smoothly. More importantly though are the hundreds of community members who make donations each year. It’s awe-inspiring to be part of a community that continues to support this effort.”
This year, The Intelligencer aims to raise $140,000. Organizers noted that, after the program satisfies eligible requests for assistance during the holidays, the remaining fund balance could be used to provide similar types of assistance to eligible locals in need throughout the year.
But with the holidays here in earnest, now is the time to seize the seasonal spirit and give generously, Cuozzo said.
“The ability to provide financial assistance during the holidays is simply priceless,” he said.