Several hundred families were able to enjoy the holiday last year, thanks to the generous donations of churches, corporations, service clubs, schools and individuals.
Contributions, which came in a steady stream during the last weeks of December, were sorted and stored by volunteers in preparation for a three-day gift distribution.
Gail Franchi was there all week. She used to work in the Emergency Services department at U Christian Ministries (UCM), but now she comes back for major events, such as the food drive and school supply distribution.
Joe Canny was there for the first time, as were Michael Dickerson, Peter Curcio and Michael Curcio.
The amount of gifts was overwhelming and Sue Kelly, volunteer coordinator for UCM, said that she felt that they had received even more this year than they did last year. This made it easier to accommodate the 250 families who participated in the gift distribution, receiving several gifts for each of the 550 children.
"There's tons of clothing this year, which is fantastic," she said. "The community is wonderful."
IN ADDITION TO the 250 families who participated in the gift distribution, there were another 66 families (with 200 children) who were part of the Adopt-a-Family Program. Families who adopted a family were given wish lists with items that the parents and children needed and/or wanted. While some items were toys that most children would ask for, many others were basic things, like underwear and dishes.
About five to six volunteers came in every day to sort the presents and during the gift distribution they had six people helping at all times. Three families came in at a time for 15-minute appointments, during which time they could select gifts and clothes for their children. They left with their arms full, and even took home wrapping paper, some decorations, and batteries for the toys that required it.
Deborah Halla, Development Officer, said that the families were also able to pick up food for their holiday meals. "We even had volunteers who drove families home with their food and their presents."
Families need support all year, not just during the holidays. UCM is a qualified 501(c)3 non-profit human services agency that has served the community for over 32 years. Their programs are made possible through the generous support of the community. For more information on UCM and its programs or to volunteer, contact Capri at 703-768-7106, ext. 325.