Our Neighbor's Child (ONC) — the grassroots, nonprofit group bringing Christmas gifts to a slew of needy families in the local area — is gearing up for delivery day, this Sunday, Dec. 17.
But it's a big job and it just got bigger. According to Executive Director Kelly Lavin, some 41 new families were just added, bringing the total number receiving holiday gifts to 752 — including some 2,200 children.
"THEY'RE ON our wait list until we determine our ability to serve the first 711 families," she said. "So monetary donations or gift cards from the community will enable us to provide for these added families. They'll still be accepted through Christmas Eve."
Meanwhile, all the moms and dads who make up ONC are doing what they can to fill all the needs. "We have an insane amount of gift cards to buy," said Lavin. "But overall, it's been a joyous thing to see how different groups in our community — schools, churches, athletic teams, SGA member, etc. — have come together to help."
Another focus this week is finding enough volunteers to deliver all the gifts to the recipients. "There are lots of people who make this a part of their holiday, each year, but we're still waiting to hear from them," said Lavin. "If they'd just go ahead and e-mail Lucy Richter [see How to Help box], we'd all sleep better. Right now, we have 35 drivers, but we need 200 or so."
Her husband Chris is also an integral part of ONC's efforts. He helps Kelly get their children off to school, grocery shop and pick up dinner so she can concentrate on this huge task. "I support her in any way I can," he said. "This week, she's been at it 18 hours a day."
He also heads up deliveries. When ONC started 15 years ago, he and Kelly delivered everything themselves because just 30 families needed help. But the need has grown exponentially since then.
"THE PACKAGES are already pre-sorted by street so we don't have people running all over town, and drivers are given maps to each address," said Chris. "Any size vehicle is fine. Each driver picks up and delivers gifts to three families, but some come back for more and may even make nine to 12 deliveries. And that's where you're rewarded by seeing very gracious, grateful people."
And this week, SGA students at both Centreville and Westfield high schools are baking and packaging several thousand, homemade cookies to be delivered to all the ONC gift recipients. They also collected toiletries for them.
"I like this event because it benefits the people who live right around us," said Diane Underwood, one of Westfield's two SGA advisors. "Some of them may even go to our schools or feeder schools."