Sponsors needed for Christmas Cheer program

SANDUSKY Kim Whaley said she's having a hard time saying no. Registration for the Vol
May 24, 2010



Kim Whaley said she's having a hard time saying no.

Registration for the Volunteers of America's annual Christmas Cheer program ended in October, but she's still receiving phone calls from families reaching out to the non-profit organization to help brighten up their children's holiday.

"I've tried to get it cut off, but I can't," said Whaley, who is the organization's Christmas Cheer coordinator. "We just can't meet all the needs."

The organization's program connects less fortunate children and their holiday wish lists to sponsors, or local community members, who fulfill them. This year, there is a shortage of sponsors.

As of last week, VOA had 728 children registered to receive gifts -- 83 of them still need sponsors.

"It's just grown every year," said Sue Reamsnyder, the executive director of VOA's Northwest chapter.

The children's ages range from 12 weeks up to 12 years old. Their lists include everything from baby dolls and bicycles to handheld games and clothes.

The organization checks with other local organizations, including the Salvation Army, to make sure families aren't sponsored twice. Families must qualify as low-income to receive a sponsor for their children.

Since 2003, the number of children sponsored has increased 8 percent. In 2003, 672 children signed up for assistance.

Whaley attributes the increase in demand to job loss and divorce.

"The economy is a biggie," she said.

VOA will distribute the gifts to the children on Dec. 18 and 19. Sponsored children will receive a time and date to come and pick up their gifts at this year's distribution center on King Street. The organization will also distribute 600 food baskets on Dec. 19 to families who registered to receive them.

Reamsnyder said she hopes to hear from more sponsors.

"It's a way for the community to help," Reamsnyder said. "We love to see the smiles on the kids' faces."