Making Christmas Happen For Struggling Families
Generous community groups' donations distributed in township's annual program.
Visitors to the municipal building late at night recently may have noticed the activity in the large multi-purpose room, with several people busy working as late as 9 p.m.
Inside the room, Karen Sowden, Cathy Faerber and Tamas Ormosi have been packing gift bundles for about 300 individuals for the township's annual holiday distribution for needy families, as well as special holiday food bundles from the food pantry.
For Sowden, the added hours at the end of her regular hours in the Health Department aren't a burden; rather, she delights in helping gather the gifts donated by church groups, Scouts, school classes and individuals.
"It means so much to them," she said. "I really wouldn't want to miss it."
Hillsborough's Social Services Department facilitates the annual program, where about 100 families are able to enjoy Christmas holidays despite job losses, family break-up, medical issues or the death of a loved one because of the generosity of the township.
"I think it's a great program here," Ormosi, head of the department, said. He noted the outpouring from the community even provides a little "surplus" the department can use for those who didn't register to participate. "With 40,000 people in town, we get the calls. Even after this, people will come in and we can usually help them."
The program grew out of the "Give a Holiday" program, with families registering by submitting a list of items they'd like to receive. Ormosi said most of the requests are honored, although the occasional wish for the latest high-tech video game might not be fulfilled.
"But we'll find something for them," he said.
Success of the program is leading officials to try and reach out to more families—Township Administrator Anthony Fererra said with unemployment rates as high as they are and layoffs, it's likely more families could benefit from the program, if they knew about it.
Ferrera said the township will making a concerted effort to raise awareness of the Social Services' programs in the next year, and plans to expand the township food pantry are underway.
"We want to make sure when people come in, we have what they want," he said.
Ormosi proudly stands among the hundreds of bagged gifts, waiting for pickup today and on Friday, and lists the department's services—in addition to the food and gift distributions for Thanksgiving, Hannuakah, Christmas and Easter, the department offers transportation services for seniors, help with home repairs and wellness program for seniors.