By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (December 6, 2016) – When it comes to defining those in need this Christmas, more families than ever are in need of assistance, and giving campaign organizers are issuing a plea for community support.
Jill Scott, director of H.O.P.E, Inc., has organized the gift distribution application process that serves children in Stephenville and Erath County for about 17 years. Scott said she believes 2016 has already welcomed a record number of applicants.
Scott said more than 800 children’s names are associated with angel trees placed in businesses across Stephenville and the Stephenville Optimist Club’s Toys for Kids distribution project. Angel trees benefit children in the sixth grade and younger and the Optimists assist with gifts for children from birth up to 12 years old.
The number being served is expected to increase over the coming days, as H.O.P.E., located at 1617 East Washington Street, will continue to accept applications for assistance daily from 9 a.m. until noon through Friday. Families who reside in Stephenville or the unincorporated areas of Erath County are welcome to apply.
Scott said children who live in Dublin are served by other community projects. Community members there can contact Dublin Public Library for more information.
Meanwhile, other campaigns, including gift collection efforts benefitting children currently under the supervision of Child Protective Services and the elderly and disabled clients of Meals on Wheels of Erath County are also underway, as is toy drive sponsored by a local riding club that hopes to serve children other programs do not.
Scott said collection efforts to serve the largest number of children began just after Thanksgiving, when a number of businesses placed angel trees in their foyers, inviting employees and patrons to shop for children in need.
Those trees are located inside Interbank, Citizens National Bank, First Baptist Church, Valley Grove Baptist Church, Faith Lutheran Church and Fibergrate Composite Structures.
Organizers contacted those sponsor locations to determine how many angels they could support and distributed them across town. Some locations distributed a large number of angels in the early days of the project. Scott said Interbank filled the needs of 100 angles the day after Thanksgiving and additional angels were placed on the tree.
Scott said community members who would like to purchase gifts for children should first check the businesses hosting angel trees because those gifts are scheduled to be distributed during the week on Monday, Dec. 12.
Meanwhile, Stephenville Lions Club oversees collection efforts through First Financial Bank, TexasBank, TexStar Ford and FMC Technologies, serving H.O.P.E. applicants.
Sherry Evans, who spearheads the Lions Club effort, said there were 270 angels placed on those four trees this year.
“This is the largest we have since I can remember,” Evans said. “We are definitely in need of community members stopping by First Financial Bank, TexasBank and TexStar Ford locations and picking up angels from those locations.”
Parents will pick up gifts from Lions Club members on Wednesday, December 14.
As need across the county continues to grow, Scott said H.O.P.E called on the assistance of Grace Place this year. Volunteers with the with First Baptist Church Stephenville assistance organization collected applications, whereas H.O.P.E. served as the sole signup location in previous years.
Applications were distributed across school districts, where school counselors distributed them to families who could be in need of assistance. Scott said the names of families being served are checked to ensure only one application per family is accepted.
She also said families who have recently applied and those who submit applications in the remaining days of the campaign will be served through the Optimist Club distribution, which is scheduled for December 17 and 19. Families must present application receipts to collect gifts through that project.
Community members who would like to deliver unwrapped toys or monetary donations to Toys for Kids are asked to leave those contributions with Optimist Harriet Frazier at the Foster’s Home for Children business office, located at 1779 North Graham Street in Stephenville.
Angel trees set up at Home Place at Ace and Coldwell Banker, as well as a Stephenville Kiwanis Club sponsored tree at Staples, benefit children under the supervision of Child Protective Services. The project is separate from aforementioned efforts.
Lilly G Riding Club
To ensure boys and girls across the county have something special underneath the tree, Lilly G Riding Club is currently accepting applications for assistance. The club’s project is not affiliated with any of the local clubs or organizations working in conjunction with H.O.P.E.
To qualify, parents must live and work in Erath County.
Applying is simple. Just call riding club president Rick Taylor at 254-459-0141 after 5 p.m. Applicants will be asked to provide their names as well as the names and ages of their children.
To make the giving campaign possible, Lilly G is collecting new, unwrapped toys 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 17 at Twisted J, located at 2285 North U.S. Highway 377 in Stephenville.
Contributors will be treated to free pizza, sodas from Dublin Bottling Works, coffee and cocoa, as well as discounts on holiday shopping at Twisted J Boutique.
The club will also collect canned goods and other nonperishable food items for The Pantry and More, a local ministry offering food and other support to community members in need.
For the Elderly and Disabled
Stephenville Senior Center and Dublin Public Library are hosting an annual giving campaign benefitting clients of Meals on Wheels of Erath County. Each location has trees with the wants and needs of the elderly and disabled individuals who benefit from the meal delivery service, and community members can pick up angels Monday through Friday through December 12.
Gifts should be returned no later than December 12, so they can be sorted and taken to Meals on Wheels clients during meal distribution the following week.
Stephenville Senior Center is located at 164 East College Street, and the Dublin library is located at 206 W. Blackjack.
For more information, call 254-965-3510.