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Aid groups make final push for the coming holiday season

As the holiday season enters its final days, local governments and aid agencies still welcome contributions to their efforts to provide cheer to economically disadvantaged families.

The Silver Spring-based antipoverty organization, A Wider Circle, opened its “North Pole” facility at its warehouse on December 4. Referred families and individuals are invited to visit and select gifts from the group's supply of donated toys, clothes, books, and electronics.

Dr. Mark Bergel, A Wider Circle’s founder, said that the organization would provide gifts to more than 6,000 kids this season.

“This is possible thanks to the generosity of our community,” Bergel said. “I like to see the holidays as a metaphor for the kind of world we hope to create. We want to build a world where people won’t need this help over the holidays, but until that moment arrives, we’ll do everything we can to ensure that everybody has happy holidays.”

Bergel said that A Wider Circle would accept gifts up through the Christmas holiday and that gift cards to stores such as Target, Safeway, Whole Foods and Giant were especially welcome.

Gift cards make great gifts for parents and older teenagers, who sometimes don’t get as much help from holiday drives. As hard as it is to hear somebody call and say they need help on Christmas Eve, it’s wonderful to be able to provide that help.” 

The City of Rockville is conducting its annual holiday drive, which provides Thanksgiving meals to low-income families and seniors and collects donated toys, books, clothes, and gift cards as holiday gifts to families. Last Saturday, several hundred Rockville residents who had received referral letters came to the Elwood Smith Community Center to collect their gifts. Each resident received books and a gift card. Also, volunteer chaperones guided the residents around the center and helped them pick out two age-appropriate toys for each child in their family. Other volunteers wrapped the gifts.

“This is always something that made me feel really good about myself, like I could help others,” said Matan Admi, a senior at Sherwood High School, who volunteered as a chaperone on Saturday. He has volunteered at the drive for the last five years.

Sarah Dickinson, community services program analyst for the City of Rockville, called the drive a success. 

“Seeing the joy and gratitude in a recipient’s face when they receive their gifts is what makes the hard work of all our staff and volunteers worthwhile,” Dickinson said. “We still want and are accepting present donations, especially gift cards.”

The Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH) launched a drive to provide each of their 1120 clients with a holiday gift. 

“Perhaps even more important than the gift itself is the thought behind it,” said Debbie Ezrin, director of Development and Communications for MCCH. “Receiving a gift lets our client know that someone’s thinking about them and that they're part of the wonderful community that we have here in Montgomery County.” 

Ezrin added that MCCH had received $27,000 in financial donations to support its holiday programs, an increase from past years.

“At this point, the most helpful way to contribute is through a financial donation on our website,” she said. “Those donations help by gift cards so that our clients can choose their own gifts.” 

Toys and other gifts may be dropped off at Rockville City Hall or any other community center operated by the city.  For more information on A Wider Circle, visit www.awidercircle.org/holidays. Those interested in making a financial contribution may do so through the city’s website, www.rockvillemd.gov

Readers wishing to donate further may do so by visiting http://www.mcch.net on the web.

@petersrouleau

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