by Lisa Tome
Santa won't be visiting the homes of those served by the Cecil County Help Center this Christmas.
Diana Klusak, assistant director of county programs for the Cecil County Department of Social Services, said last week, that for the first time in decades, there will be no toys given away at the Help Center.
"Our funding is at an all time low...There will be no holiday toy shop this year," said Klusak. "We can't do toys. Food is the number one need."
Klusak said she has notified officials at Toys for Tots that they may be facing an increased need this year.
"This is not happy news. We've been doing toys for 20 or 25 years. We just don't have the resources to do it," she said. "Our focus is on feeding people."
Last year, about 105 children received toys from the Help Center. In better years, up to 400 children got gifts.
"It's all about donations," said Klusak. "When Toys for Tots came in, they were hugely successful at redirecting donations. They have huge campaigns."
Food distribution is the focus for Help Center staff at this time. Klusak said that the center is doling out 1,600 bags of food per month. They have also had an increase in the numbers of those who ask for home heating help. Families receiving food stamps also took a hit, with the cuts which began November 1.
But while the holiday outlook is bleak, the Help Center has served a large number of families in 2013. In the Help Center thrift shop, 55,618 people were served. The food pantry served 9,350 people. During the annual coat drive, 1,097 coats were distributed. Last year, 85 children received Christmas gifts and 254 families received holiday food. In an effort to prevent homelessness, 220 households were provided with $89,710 in aid.
The Office of Home Energy Programs provided energy grants to 3,833 households totaling $2,519,920, and Electric Universal Service Program grants totaling $1,333,150.
For more information about Cecil County Help Center programs on the web go to www.cecilhelp4u.com.