St. Ann's gift drive bringing holiday cheer for hundreds

Members of St. Ann’s Catholic Church are donning the role of St. Nick for more than 600 people once again, including roughly 90 families, in this year’s Christmas Giving Project. Volunteers are donating six to eight hours a day, organizing and wrapping gifts to be delivered throughout the community for their annual gift drive.

Among the households processed through the drive this year are 61 families from the Pyle Center, 15 families at United Wesley Methodist Church, and five families from Lord Baltimore Elementary.

In addition to the families, 50 students from Richard Allen School in Georgetown and 54 students from Indian River High School’s ESL program will also receive gifts through St. Ann’s program this year.

The church has also been working with the Marine Corps in the Toys for Tots donations this season.

“We can’t always get give them everything they ask for, but we do our best,” said Pat Duchesne, St. Ann’s member and coordinator of the gift drive. “Each family member gets many gifts, not just one.”

Recipients-to-be of the drive submitted confidential Christmas request cards, which included clothing sizes, gift item preferences, etc. “We realize that there’s a privacy issue,” noted Duchesne. “All the names are only known by one person.”

The cards were picked up by members of the church as early as Nov. 20, and gifts have been pouring into St. Ann’s Masterson Center ever since. “We started getting piles of gifts by Thanksgiving,” said Duchesne.

“This year, we went through a lot of gift cards, too, especially for the older people on the lists,” Duchesne added. “I think, alone, there’s at least $5,000 in gift cards.”

The drive has seen quite an increase since its start. “It began nine or 10 years ago,” said Duchesne.

Although the project was scheduled to end on Wednesday, Dec. 13, calls still come in each day, noted Duchesne, adding to the piles of toys and gifts that line the hallways and fill four rooms of the Masterson Center.

“The number of families that we send gifts to is very close to what we had last year,” said Duchesne, though she said the number of gifts donated seems to increase more and more with each season. “People have been really generous this year.”

“It’s been amazing to see the piles of gifts grow each year,” added a volunteer. “It started with two rooms, and then grew to three and four.”

Volunteers began transferring the gifts to the Pyle Center on Wednesday, Dec. 13, and will continue distributing gifts throughout the community in the week to come. “We have members of the church who volunteer to fill their vans and bring gifts around to the families. It’s a pretty big operation we have here.”

“We’re doing this for the community,” said Duchesne. “There are only a couple [recipient] families from St. Ann’s. This is really for the Sussex County community.”

The volunteers have donated much of their time to ensure a promising holiday for families in the area, and Duchesne has no regrets.

“It’s definitely worth it,” she said. “This is our Christmas.”