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Holiday giving meets needs in our area

Holiday giving meets needs in our area

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BLOOMINGTON - Christmas came for those in need in McLean County and beyond - thanks to donations from Central Illinois residents - even though not all holiday appeals reached their goals.

"McLean County went over and above supporting so many different charities," said Matt Drat, coordinator of McLean County Toys for Tots, a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve program.

"Would I like to have given the kids more for Christmas? Sure," Drat said Wednesday. "But all our kids got something."

Toys for Tots' experience mirrored that of other local holiday charities. Not all goals were met, but all families on their lists received something.

Several charities - like WJBC's Brotherhood Tree - were worried two weeks ago that they wouldn't be able to meet the needs of their families because need was up but donations were down. WJBC Station Manager Janae Jontry wondered whether Central Illinois residents were tapped out after donating thousands of dollars to survivors of Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunamis.

"But the people came through" in the last week before Christmas, she said. Donations to the Brotherhood Tree provided gifts for 6,500 people, compared with 6,000 families last year, Jontry said.

Andrea Raycraft, Children's Foundation development coordinator, said, "It's a wonderful feeling knowing that none of our families went without during the holidays."

Toys for Tots collects toys and stocking stuffers for families in need by working with The Salvation Army, Easter Seals, Boys & Girls Club and Western Avenue Community Center.

Toys for Tots had 900 children on its list and was able to provide each with two toys and their families with stocking stuffers, Drat said.

Drat estimated the number of items totaled 13,000. But that didn't approach his aggressive goals of four toys for each children, a board game and book for each family and a total of 25,000 items.

The Salvation Army had goals of $125,000 each for its Red Kettle Campaign and annual direct mail drive.

The Red Kettle campaign collected $140,000.

"The community really supported us with new volunteers, new locations and more donations," development director Harriett Steinbach said.

About 1,000 families were provided with food and toys. Donations also support Salvation Army programs, including the food pantry, energy assistance program and Safe Harbor homeless shelter.

But the direct mail campaign, which runs through Jan. 15, has raised only about $90,000 so far, she said.

Children's Foundation's Adopt-A-Family program helped 925 individuals - including survivors of recent domestic abuse - with household items, clothes, gifts and toys for children, Raycraft said. The value of donated items totaled $136,000, which was about equal with last year.

But money donations to the program and to the foundation's Christmas mail appeal, which support the foundation's 11 year-round programs, total $55,000, which was about $20,000 under goal.

The Pantagraph's Good Fellow Fund has raised $66,508 through direct donations and ticket sales to the Holiday Spectacular, said Bill Hertter, director of circulation and marketing. While that is less than the $86,337 donated last year, Hertter said he is grateful because repeating last year's total would have been difficult.

Donations provided food baskets and grocery certificates to 100 Central Illinois families, 2,500 blankets to nursing home and homebound residents, gifts for 90 Boys & Girls Club children to give to their parents, and will meet basic needs throughout the year, Hertter said.


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