Give A Christmas 2021: Campaign kicks off with need high amid inflation, natural disasters and COVID

It’s time to break another record.

Last year, the local community stepped up like never before, donating more than $261,000 to The Intelligencer’s Give A Christmas campaign.

The outpouring of altruism couldn’t have been more timely, as people throughout Bucks and eastern Montgomery counties reeled amid the economic and health hardships wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, as the autumn deepens and the holidays near, it’s essential for area residents, businesses and places of worship to come through again with robust donations to Give A Christmas.

Need remains elevated in a year fraught with local natural disasters and continued COVID-related hardships that have heaped more pressure on the community’s most vulnerable families and individuals, said Joseph Cuozzo.

“Give A Christmas is a great way for people to support the needs of local families,” said Cuozzo, director of development at the Bucks County Opportunity Council, which administers Give A Christmas in partnership with The Intelligencer.

Cuozzo continued: “A donor will know that their contribution will impact someone in the area who needs help. People and businesses have been very generous throughout the last two years and we hope that they will continue to feel fortunate enough to share with others.”

Give A Christmas launched in 1988. It’s raised nearly $3 million over the years. The BCOC, which serves locals in need through a spectrum of services, shares 10% of the proceeds with the similarly missioned Keystone Opportunity Center, a Souderton-based nonprofit.

The fund delivers financial assistance to individuals and families in need during the holidays.

“The sheer volume of horrific news events recently comes on top of everyday needs, even in times less chaotic that we are in now,” said The Intelligencer Executive Editor Shane Fitzgerald. “Even in the best of times, many people through no fault of their own come across hardship. It’s heartening to live in a community that traditionally generously lends a helping hand, whatever the circumstances.”

Benefiting low-income people 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 for rent, medicine, bills and utility expenses.

Notably, money not dispersed during the holidays is used to support locals in need throughout the year with everything from food and rent to employment assistance. And in 2021, need for aid is again high.

“The recent natural disasters we’ve experienced locally with floods and tornados contributed to people reaching out for help,” said Tammy Schoonover, chief program officer at BCOC.

For instance, when the remnants of Hurricane Ida blew through, inundating Bucks and Montgomery counties with rain and triggering flooding, a local family’s home was rendered uninhabitable by the overpowering waters.

They were in desperate need of help. BCOC stepped in to provide it.

First, the council helped the working family apply for rental assistance and find temporary lodging near the children’s school and father’s job. Then the nonprofit aided with school supplies and gift cards for purchasing essentials. It also helped the family find a permanent new home.

“We’ll be assisting them with Christmas too through the Give A Christmas program,” Schoonover noted.

In 2021, Give A Christmas has a fundraising goal of $165,000, though organizers would be happy to surpass the baseline objective and overtake 2020’s record-breaking tally.

The influx of money last year empowered BCOC to help families that had an average annual income of just $17,597. With its portion of the funds, Keystone Opportunity Center helped nearly 700 people in difficult circumstances in 2020.

This year, BCOC is increasing the dollar amount of the gift cards it will provide to $100 for families with no children and $200 for families with children. It’s a result of the runaway inflation being experienced throughout the United States.

“The cost of everything,” said Schoonover, “has gone up.”

And that’s just another reason to give to Give A Christmas in 2021, if you have the means, said Cuozzo.

“Your donation may help one of your child’s friends or a family you go to church with or someone who is working but can’t make ends meet,” Cuozzo said. “Often, the families we serve are living paycheck to paycheck and don’t have any extra money for the holidays for their kids. It may be even harder for many now because of the prices of items going up. Give A Christmas donations make the holidays for these families a little brighter.”

— Chris Ruvo, Special to The Intelligencer

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