NAPLES — Charities are taking steps to make sure every child has a gift under the Christmas tree and families are fed this Christmas weekend, helped out in at least one significant case by a philanthropist.
"The need for financial assistance has grown tremendously, and we've had to watch our budget," said Armando Galella, district director with Catholic Charities of Collier County. "We're not going to meet the need in Immokalee because it's too great. We had to curb our financial assistance there beginning this month."
However, Catholic Charities was able to restore its food bank thanks to a private donation from a philanthropist and contributions from organizations such as the Community Foundation of Collier County, St. Ann Catholic Church and St. Elizabeth Seton Parish.
"We should all say thanks to the community for those who are able to contribute,'' Galella said. "We live in a very generous place."
The Red Kettle Campaign for the Salvation Army is on target to raise $300,000 to support Collier County residents with emergency social services such as food, utilities and rent, said Chris Nind, director of development for the Salvation Army.
But holiday gift-giving is down about 30 percent, he said, especially with new clothing and toys for children ages 6 to 8 — and the organization received only half the number of children's bicycles it typically distributes.
On the plus side, Nind said, Waterside Shops had a successful Angel Tree stand where 120 toys were donated through Dec. 18 and J.C. Penney's online Angel Tree allows people to select a local child and gift that is delivered to the Salvation Army office for distribution.
The Salvation Army also helps feed the hungry for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"We have had to purchase quite a lot of food to give to people during Thanksgiving and Christmas," Nind said.
Though donations are behind, Nind hopes civic organizations and businesses will continue to hold food drives after the holidays.
St. Matthew's House has been busy distributing more than 650 meals of turkey and fixings this week and preparing to serve 800 people on Christmas Day at its shelter in East Naples and at Immokalee Friendship House.
Vann Ellison, the group's president and CEO, echoed some other charities' comments about the ongoing need for financial donations.
"There are only two or three months where the money comes in to get you through the year, so year-end giving is essential for us," Ellison said.
Each year, St. Matthew's House serves 1,300 people in shelters and 12,000 through its feeding ministry.
For the holidays, Harry Chapin Food Bank spent $20,000 to buy 1,500 turkeys, plus additional money on fresh produce such as carrots, potatoes and squash, so people can have a nutritious holiday meal this weekend.
"We have some donations but are a long way from covering this cost,'' said Joyce Jacobs, associate director with the Harry Chapin Food Bank. "Our message is that, if you can help us monetarily, please send a check."
Food drives at Publix and Sweetbay continue through the end of the year, Jacobs said, adding that "this gives us an incredible amount of products to give to families."
The Northside Naples Kiwanis Club again this year anticipates feeding thousands of hungry people in Immokalee for Christmas. The club is sponsoring a Christmas lunch at 10:30 a.m. at Immokalee Airport Part on Airport Access Road in Immokalee. The organization will serve hot dogs and hamburgers along with providing entertainment, including a visit from Santa.
Also in Immokalee, the Guadalupe Center's holiday gift shop ends this week as parents come in to select a free holiday gift for their children, said Barbara Oppenheim, president of the organization.
Like the Salvation Army, Guadalupe Center had a shortage of bicycles this year, which Oppenheim said affects middle and high school students who often rely on that form of transportation to get to school. However, the organization works with other agencies in Immokalee to make sure each family has what it needs and that, especially in times of limited resources, they don't duplicate efforts.
Oppenheim said the center still needs dolls, action figures and toys for children ages 4 to 8, bicycles, gift cards to stores such as Target and Wal-Mart for middle school students, and cash.
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Here's how to help in the remaining days:
Drop off bicycles, toys, clothing, canned goods, dried foods and baby formula:
■ Salvation Army, 3180 Estey Ave., East Naples
Drop off bicycles, toys and gift cards:
■ Guadalupe Center Upscale Resale & Consignment Shop, 8100 Trail Blvd., Naples
■ Support Harry Chapin Food Bank food drives at Publix and Sweetbay
Mail checks to:
■ Catholic Charities Family Counseling Center, 2210 Santa Barbara Blvd., East Naples 34116
■ Catholic Charities Family Resource Center, 4209 U.S. 41 East, Naples 34112
■ Catholic Charities Guadalupe Social Services, 211 South Ninth St., Immokalee 34142
■ Guadalupe Center, 509 Hope Circle, Immokalee 34142
■ Harry Chapin Food Bank, 3760 Fowler St., Fort Myers 33901
■ St. Matthew's House, 2001 Airport-Pulling Road, East Naples 34112
■ Salvation Army, 3180 Estey Ave., East Naples 34104