Christmas morning will be bright for needy children in McDuffie County, thanks to the local Angel Tree program.
Partners for Success, which coordinates the efforts for the county, had a "pickup" last week, in which they handed out gifts to meet the wants and needs of almost 150 children, according to Executive Director Miriam Smith.
"We are so grateful to everyone who adopted a child and enabled us to help so many," Mrs. Smith said. "Our only goal is to make sure that as many families in the community that need help are able to receive it. That's what's important to us."
Called Presents from Partners, the agency not only serves their own clients but also takes referrals from the Department of Family and Children Services, the Housing Authority, educators, churches and other people in the community to learn of families in need. Partners then finds the people, groups, businesses, churches or organizations to adopt those children.
"This allows the community to have one source to be able to call if they are wanting to help a family in need in McDuffie County," Mrs. Smith said. "It's a free service that PFS does for McDuffie County."
The program prevents duplication of services to the same family, enabling more families to be served. Not only does it keep people from "working the system" and getting listed on more than one Angel Tree but it also allows screening of each family.
Mrs. Smith said that when churches or businesses are wanting to help a family in need, they want to make sure that the family truly is in need and that the family is trying to help themselves.
"This allows the community to be able to trust that the names they are given meet those two qualifications," she said. "I hear this all the time, especially at this time of year, a lot of groups and Sunday School classes want to adopt a family, but they don't know who to adopt. That's the point of this system."
Mrs. Smith said the group is able to do the shopping for the family and then come to the Partners for Success office and take a picture with their gifts.
"So, each person still gets all the credit for what they did," she said. "It's not credit for Partners. Partners is the one coordinating all the efforts, with the family, with the pickup, with the pre-screening, to make sure everything is provided."
That is what the Family Y did, according to Y130 Center Director Corie Johnson. Mrs. Johnson said they held a fun fundraiser for Angel Tree called "the Grinch Tree." They decorated a Christmas tree with trash and a large pink bow, and secretly set it up in a front yard that they had been paid to do so. A sign in front of the tree proclaimed "You've Been Grinched." Proceeds from the Grinch Tree benefited 52 children, who were referred from DFCS, Mrs. Johnson said.
"There was just a lot of excitement and energy for the program this year," she said. "People were so ready to give and help out."
Mrs. Smith said she had families who chose to adopt a family in need rather than exchanging gifts with other family members.
"That worked out good. And I think it was neat for them to want to do that," she said. "It's partners in the community. Everybody partnering together."