Holiday giving off to slow start |

Holiday giving off to slow start

Community food and toy drives are in full swing, but it seems that the holiday spirit hasn’t yet caught hold at South Shore.

“Usually by this time we have a lot more gifts and canned goods. There’s a couple of weeks left until Christmas, so we’re hoping people are just off to a slow start,” said Sue Davis, coordinator of St. Theresa Catholic Church’s holiday food and toy drive.

Christmas Cheer, the community’s year-round emergency food pantry, is also reporting a lull in activity at the donation center.

“This is the time of year that things go slowly, so we have to worry every year that we’ll have enough,” said Christmas Cheer Director Wilma Thomas.

Food and toy drives provide holiday meals and Christmas presents to about 500 families in the community. This year, however, local charities may see a decrease in demand as the number of needy families in South Lake Tahoe declines.

A strong economy, more jobs and a declining unemployment rate are contributing to smaller rolls at El Dorado County’s financial assistance department, according to Ed Zylman, director of the county’s Placerville office.

“The unemployment rate is at the lowest it’s been in 29 years. People are just finding jobs, and I credit that more than recent rule changes (for welfare) for the drop in numbers,” Zylman said.

There are currently 400 families receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children. There are 500 more families or individuals in the South Shore area of the county receiving food stamps.

“That’s quite a reduction in numbers (over the past year),” Zylman said.

Despite the decrease, local holiday charities are looking for help from the community.

Donations of non-perishable food, gifts, volunteer time and money are being accepted. Closer to distribution time, St. Theresa will accept donations of perishable foods, but refrigeration space won’t allow for such donations ahead of time.

“We’ve run out of room for turkeys, but we’ll take turkeys and hams on Dec. 20th and 21st, when we start distributing,” Davis said.

Non-perishable food isn’t limited to canned green beans. In demand are canned fruits, fresh fruits that will last a few days, boxed and even fresh potatoes, dried or canned milk, baby foods, yams, cranberry sauce, olives and other snack-type foods, canned vegetables, muffin and cake mixes, dessert and gelatin mixes, candy and a variety of other foods that can be held for a few days and packaged.

People who wish to donate gifts can select items for children or adults. St. Theresa has two gift trees decorated with ornaments that represent needy individuals. People who want to donate can take an ornament, then return a gift in its place.

Christmas Cheer and St. Theresa are concurrently enrolling families for holiday food and gift baskets. Families in the community who need holiday meals or gifts can sign up now at either program headquarters.

Toy distribution will be Dec. 20 and 21, and food distribution will be Dec. 22 and 23 at Christmas Cheer, 2085 Eloise Drive. Qualifying families will need to get a voucher from El Dorado County Department of Social Services and be prepared to show picture identification for each adult and some form of identification for each child.

St. Theresa Catholic Church, 1041 Lyons Ave., will distribute food and toys on Dec. 21. from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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