2020 has been a difficult year for most everyone, but some have experienced particular pain and hardship.
Like the Bucks County mother whose son was afflicted by multiple seizures in January. It took visits to multiple hospitals to determine he had a brain tumor. What followed was perilous surgery and follow-up therapy, conducted at health facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, that caused the mother to miss work. That job, with its time demands, ultimately became untenable, given her need to care for her son and her other children.
The hard-working woman ultimately found another position, but the hours and pay both were less. The diminished earnings, along with the onus of medical bills and paying for life’s essentials like food and shelter, had the household budget running on fumes.
As Christmas season commenced, it was clear finding the money necessary to put gifts beneath the tree would be tough. That is, until the mother applied for assistance from The Intelligencer’s Give A Christmas fund, which provided the family with gift cards to purchase holiday presents.
“Receiving some assistance for Christmas helps us out a lot,” the woman said. “It allows us to make Christmas more special than what we could do on our own. We’ve been through a lot this year.”
Since 1988, Give A Christmas has helped families in similar financially tight situations. Over the 32 seasons the program has operated generous families, individuals, businesses, houses of worship and other organizations have donated more than $3 million to support the campaign.
With Christmas less than a week away, this year’s campaign is nearing its conclusion, making now the time to donate.
“Due to the hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a large increase in need not just for Give A Christmas assistance but for all of the emergency services that we provide,” said Joseph Cuozzo, director of development at the Doylestown-headquartered nonprofit Bucks County Opportunity Council.
The Opportunity Council administers Give A Christmas in partnership with The Intelligencer. Ten percent of the proceeds are shared with the Souderton-based assistance-focused nonprofit Keystone Opportunity Center. The fund provides financial assistance to individuals and families in need during the holidays. Money not dispersed during the holidays is used to support locals in need throughout the year.
Benefiting low-income people in Central and Upper Bucks County, as well as Eastern Montgomery County and the North Penn and Indian Valley communities, Give A Christmas delivers a variety of assistance. That includes everything from help with buying gifts and groceries, to paying rent, medicine bills and utility expenses.
This year, the community has stepped up in a big way to meet the increased demand for assistance, organizers said. The goal of $140,000 has already been surpassed. As of press time, the community had donated a total of about $189,000.
That includes $25,000 from the Francis J. Raab Foundation. It accounts for $104,527 that came in response to a matching pledge from local philanthropist Gene Epstein, who committed to matching every donation of $500 or more (made over a certain period) up to $50,000. Organizers said the $189,000 doesn’t include Epstein’s match, so another $50,000 is expected to be on the way.
“In the last five years, Give A Christmas has never received a matching gift this high,” said Cuozzo. “It is extraordinary. We have had existing donors increase their giving, as well as new donors meet that $500 or more threshold. We can’t say thank you enough to everyone who has donated, regardless of amount.”
The money, of course, goes directly to support people in need. And that need is most definitely real.
“This assistance will give my children a Christmas as we are unable to due to layoffs,” one recipient said. “We are forever grateful.”
“I’ve been out of work since March because of COVID-19,” said another. “Give A Christmas will help to put a little something under the tree.”
Another family lost their house when the landlord sold the property. It took 11 months to be able to move and stay in the same school district for the children.
“Along with my job being closed for three months due to COVID, it has been an extremely difficult year,” a parent from the family said. “We’re pulling through, slowly but surely. The Give A Christmas assistance will allow my kids to have a Christmas of things they may have wanted but we could not get them, with us as the parents continuing to pay bills, rent and car payment.”
While the holiday season will soon end, the need among community members will not, given the continued economic challenges related to COVID-19 that lie ahead. Help organizations like the BCOC and Keystone Opportunity Center help those who need it most. There’s still time to donate. Do so now.