How you can change the life of a struggling local family this Christmas

The 15,000 square feet inside a building in Cross Creek Square was barren on a recent visit.

But signs of hope could be found all over Apalachee Parkway and Capital Circle.

A small Christmas tree has been placed on the edge of a table near the entrance. The boxes of toiletries were neatly packed. Nearby were a handful of portable heaters and fans.

New unopened blankets packs were placed on another table. Several shiny bikes were parked against a wall.

Between November 20 and December 20, this site at 2990-2 Apalachee Parkway, next to the Leon County Election Supervisor’s office, becomes full of life and goodwill as a home base for the annual Christmas project. Connection organized by Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida, Inc.

The Tallahassee Democrat is once again partnering with Catholic charities by encouraging our community to step up and give to those of us in need.

Christmas Connection was established in 1979 with the aim of helping 25 families in Tallahassee. He ended up serving over 100.

Lisa Harvey poses with a banner outside the 2021 Christmas Connection drop-off location at 2990-2 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee.

This year, Catholic Charities has 550 families in Gadsden, Franklin, Jefferson, Leon, Madison and Wakulla counties identified by social service organizations as in need of special assistance this year. The first of 40 cases will begin unfolding in the Tallahassee Democrat in our TLH section and on Tallahassee.com on Thanksgiving Day.

Personal details only offer a glimpse into the struggle that some of our neighbors find themselves:

► A family of three homeless for two years and living in a motel.

Among the needs: Food, or Walmart gift cards for food; comforter; pots and pans; electric blanket.

► A 75-year-old woman with an undiagnosed medical condition. Her partner was recently put on dialysis and is also on oxygen.

Among their needs: Blankets, nightgowns, fishing gear.

► A family of 11 headed by a mother and father who have adopted children and are the custodial parents of their grandchildren.

The needs cover the whole gamut of housewares, gift cards, sports equipment and toys.

On a case-by-case basis, examples illustrate the challenges faced by households headed by single parents, couples and responsible grandparents of several generations. They need help, whether it’s basic clothes, food items, housewares, educational items and Christmas toys.

“I can tell you that children’s learning toys are our biggest demand,” said Lisa Harvey, a retired government worker who is Christmas Connection’s coordinator for Catholic Charities Northwestern. Florida.

The second most popular items are Barbie dolls and baby dolls, followed by craft supplies and remote control toys. Of course, bikes are in demand.

Responding to requests is where you need it. Last year, 68% of 450 families were adopted, while the demands of the remaining families were met with donations from the community.

The 550 families cover 2,134 people who need help. From these:

  • 25% are children under 5 years old.
  • 25% are between 6 and 12 years old.
  • 15% are adolescents.
  • 7% are seniors, or 65 and over.

The oldest supported this year is a 93-year-old woman who enjoys bingo, crochet and “babysitting her two granddogs,” Harvey said.

“I have a lot of hope that people will be as generous as they have been in the past,” Harvey said in a pre-opening interview. “Last year was a very good year despite the pandemic. We are comfortable and confident that we can meet the needs of the 550 families we support.

Opinion:Recognizing the good in our lives every day makes every day of life more rewarding

Guest column:The community went through the clutch of the pandemic for Christmas Connection | Lisa Harvey

Byron dobson

Contact community editor Byron Dobson at [email protected] or on Twitter @byrondobson.

How to help

  • Donate in person: Drop off donated items at the Christmas Connection warehouse at 2990-2 Apalachee Parkway, next to the Election Supervisor’s office. The warehouse is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The opening days are from November 20 to 23 and from November 28 to December 31. 20. The deadline for donated items is December 15th. (Please DO NOT drop items off at the Tallahassee Democrat.) Donations can also be dropped off at Morningstar Storage, 5600 Roanoke Trail, Tallahassee. Hours are 9 am to 6 pm Monday to Friday; 9 am-5pm Saturday and 10 am-2pm Sunday.
  • Wish list : Buy early and shop easily with Christmas Connection’s Amazon Wish List. You can view the wishlist on the website TheChristmasConnection.org.
  • Cover day: Drop off new blankets and radiators from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, December 4 and Sunday, December 5 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Apalachee Parkway location. A volunteer will help you unload your car.
  • Donate online or by mail: Make a monetary donation online at TheChristmasConnection.org or send a check to Christmas Connection, PO Box 20165, Tallahassee, FL 32316.
  • Adopt a family: Complete a brief application form on the website and a family in need will be assigned to you by the volunteer adoption coordinator. All families are referred to us by social service agencies in the Big Bend area.
  • Host a Connection Christmas drive or a holiday party: Gather people from your office, school, church, sports team, family or friends and have a party or fundraiser to benefit neighbors in need. You can register online at the website and then collect gift items, gift cards and / or monetary donations, which can be brought to the collection site during normal business hours.
  • Volunteer: You can register on the website to donate your time and talents. Due to COVID, they limit the number of people who can volunteer at a time.
  • Most needed items this year: Bicycles, gift cards, blankets, towels, gifts for teens, heaters (electric / space), housewares, diapers and non-perishable foods. All donations MUST be new.
  • Website:TheChristmasConnection.org
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