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David Dozer laughed when asked how many volunteer hours went into this year’s Hope for Christmas program, managing little more than a “wow” as he tried to tabulate the time spent to collect, prepare and deliver gifts and holiday meal kits to struggling families.
Helping Hand of Hope and the Salvation Army saw an outpouring of support in their times of need, serving thousands of families and children through Hope Tree and Angel Tree programs this Christmas.
Dozer, executive director of Helping Hand of Hope, said the organization has a formal process to determine the number of volunteer hours spent but did not have official tabulations this week. However, he estimated large groups of volunteers spent about nine hours per day, five days a week during a three-week stretch to mobilize the program, which led to monumental dividends.
“It’s a lot of work to get together, but it’s such a blessing when you do it,” he said.
Dozer said the agency recorded a noticeable increase in need this year, and served approximately 715 families and 1,200 children. The numbers were up considerably from recent years when the organization was accustomed to helping about 600 families and 900 children, he said. To offset such a demand, roughly 300 volunteers assembled to prepare and deliver gifts, which included clothing and toys and food items needed to prepare a proper Christmas meal.
“We were very pleased,” Dozer said. “It went very well.”
Hope Trees were set up at Towne Mall and the Hardin County Public Library in Elizabethtown, where donors responded in droves. Helping Hand of Hope encouraged those who adopted children to spend at least $40 on clothing or toys.
“Every single child was adopted,” Dozer said. “You know, that’s pretty awesome when you have 1,200 children.”
Dozer placed a value of at least $115,000 on the program, based on the amount of toys and clothing donated and the food purchased. The majority of the expense, he added, was paid by community members who adopted children or donated gifts and food.
The Salvation Army, meanwhile, assisted 223 families and 833 individuals, all of whom received food. Through its Angel Tree program, roughly 531 children were adopted, the majority of whom received clothing and toys, according to Salvation Army Capt. Joseph May, service director for Hardin County.
“Our program went very well,” May said. “We helped everyone who made the application deadline.”
May said the number of applicants was down from last year and he was unsure why because the application window was just as long this year.
The program is funded largely by the Salvation Army’s red kettle collections, which places bell ringers at key locations around the county to drum up support. The organization raised 96 percent of its $80,000 goal by drawing in more than $77,000, an increase of $23,000 more than last year’s amount, May said. He believes kettle collections were hampered by a block of rough weather toward the end of the campaign.
Some bell ringers were paid to cover places when volunteers were not available, a new practice. That is especially true at outdoor kettles, where it’s harder to get volunteers. The money paid to bell ringers was nominal compared to the amount brought in by their presence at those locations, May said.
The Salvation Army, aided through partnerships with Community Action, and the Marine Corps Toys for Tots, fell just short of its mailed gift goal of $35,000, collecting $33,500, May said.
“Because of the generosity of the community, we were able to help (those) families have a Christmas experience they otherwise would not have,” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.