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CLINTON — A charitable cash crunch has left a DeWitt County organization scrambling for donors to purchase Christmas gifts for more than 600 low-income children.

"Our adoptions and donations are way down," said Sue Calvert, coordinator of the Angel Tree. The slower pace was not unexpected in light of the national disasters experienced this year in the South, said Calvert.

"I expected things to be down but I didn't know how bad it would be," said Calvert.

The Angel Tree buys clothing and toys for children whose families meet income guidelines. An average of $75 is spent to buy gifts for most children.

Last year, 702 children received gifts and Calvert believes the final count could exceed that number this year.

Donors may adopt an angel by visiting Country Junction, the John Warner Bank, DeWitt Savings Bank, or First National Bank and Trust & Co. AmerGen-Clinton Power Station and area churches also have angels available for adoption.

Cash donations may be made or donors can give new and used toys and new clothing for the Angel Tree Drive. Wrapping paper and gift certificates for food and other items also are given to families.

During Calvert's 13 years working with the Angel Tree project, the current holiday season represents the slowest response to the gift program. "People are really stretched right now," said Calvert.

The downturn in DeWitt County's economy in recent years has taken many employees off the employment rolls and onto the public assistance rolls. The Angel Tree has seen steady growth since the closure of at least three employers in Clinton.

Names of children who are not adopted are turned over to volunteers with Community Action, who purchase gifts for the children. The wish lists for older children are the last items most donors choose, according to Angel Tree officials.

"We've already started shopping for the older ones," said Calvert.

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