The Bethany Area Community Christmas Gift Giving Outreach was created in hopes of reaching as many lower Sussex County families in need as possible this holiday season.
“We’re going to reach as many as we can. … There’s no reason why anyone should go without,” said coordinator Pat Duchesne.
Families in need are being interviewed and chosen by Pyle State Service Center, as well as other agencies in the area, and each will receive Christmas gifts donated by the community. Duchesne said the project will also reach to seniors and special-needs students.
In participating area stores, Christmas trees are decorated with tags requesting one item that community members can pledge to purchase and return to the store, unwrapped, by Dec. 13.
“There are three cards for each child,” explained Duchesne.
The goal, she said, is for each child younger than 18 to get a $25 gift card for clothes, special fun items on their wish list and a coat. Additionally, each chosen family will receive a food gift card based on the size of their family. They request that no electronics or bicycles be donated as gifts.
“We’re trying to make it fair and have each child receive the same amount of gifts,” she said. “Each kid, hopefully, will receive the three cards. If not, we’ll fill in [what hasn’t been donated].”
The program was created after a similar outreach program, which was able to reach 800 individuals in the county, was discontinued.
“We would like to help as many as we can,” Duchesne said of the new outreach program. She said the need has always been great in Sussex County and “doesn’t seem to go away.”
“There is a great need. It’s the people that are working but they just can’t make it. They’re working at low-income jobs and, this time of year, a lot of them have either been cut from their jobs or their hours have been cut. A lot of them have a hard time trying to make their bills, and they don’t have extra.
“In our area, being the rents are high, it’s hard for them to have anything extra. A lot of people don’t understand that.”
A code number on each tag will be used to identify each recipient, along with the child’s age and gender. Those who wish to participate may choose a tag on the tree, sign their name to the sign-up book near the tree and return the unwrapped purchased gifts to the store, or any other participating store, by the Dec. 13 deadline.
Duchesne emphasized that the gifts are to be donated unwrapped, as separate wrapping paper and cards may be donated to help the families wrap the gifts for their children.
Whole families, rather than just individuals, may be adopted by visiting any participating store and signing up at the sign-in table without taking a tag from the tree. An organizer will then contact those who do so to provide more details.
Those who do not wish to take a request card may purchase gift or food cards, write a check to the Pyle State Service Center Christmas Account, or purchase hats, gloves or socks and drop them at one of the participating locations.
“Every penny goes to where it’s supposed to be,” Duchesne emphasized.
Sedona restaurant in downtown Bethany Beach will be collecting hats, gloves and socks for the program, she noted.
“We’re trying to give hats, gloves, and socks to each recipient, as well,” she said. “We do do extra things in there, because I want them to have a good Christmas.”
Duchesne added that the First State Detachment Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots, as well as Clothe Our Kids, will be supplying toy donations that will be used to cover requests on any cards not taken, as well as last-minute requests.
She said that, while the program is in its first year, with few knowing about it, those who have learned about it have been very responsive.
“I’m spreading the word everywhere I am and telling people,” she said. “Nobody has said no. … We really encourage people to participate, because the need is great. Hopefully, many, many more will respond.”
Appealing to the community for help, Duchesne said she hopes the outreach will be embraced and supported.
“I’m hoping we can be as successful as we had been in the last 20 years in helping people in the community,” she said. “We ask for people to please be as generous as they can… and I hope people will rally to make this successful.”
For more information on the Bethany Area Community Christmas Gift Giving Outreach, leave a name and telephone number at one of the participating locations, and an organizer will be in touch.
Gift cards with the recipients’ requests will be located on trees at participating businesses, including:
Bethany Diner, 792 Garfield Parkway, Bethany; Curves of Bethany Beach, 29K Atlantic Avenue, Ocean View; Millers Creek Antiques, Route 26, Millville; Interiors by Kim, 33 Central Avenue, Ocean View; Coastal Maytag, 30458 Cedar Neck Road, Ocean View; Treasure Island, Cedar Neck Road, Ocean View; Healthy Habits, 407 Main Street, Dagsboro; and Hair Daze, 32770 Burbage Road, Frankford.
Socks, gloves and hats are being collected at Sedona, 26 Pennsylvania Avenue, Bethany Beach. Those who donate at the restaurant will receive a free appetizer.