BRISTOL, Va. – A record number of children are enrolled in this year’s Santa Pal drive, but support isn’t keeping pace.
Now in its 85th year, Santa Pal is a local nonprofit program that seeks support for needy families at Christmas. It serves children between kindergarten and eighth grade in both Bristols and part of Sullivan County, Tenn.
“We have more kids than we’ve ever had, with about 900,” said Bob Gose, president of the board of directors. “Donations and adoptions are slow at this point. We’re not halfway yet.”
The program served all of the more than 700 children enrolled last year, Gose said. The organization’s goal is to raise between $33,000 and $40,000 annually, he added.
Children for this year’s program have already been selected. Santa Pal works with local school guidance counselors and includes families based on federal economic guidelines.
The program works with individuals, churches, civic groups and businesses to either “adopt” children by providing gifts or donating money. Anyone who adopts a child is given information about their ages, clothing sizes and some wishes.
“We like the adoptions because the person is involved and the child gets their gifts wrapped,” Gose said.
Monetary donations are used to purchase gift cards from national retailers and purchases are restricted to items for children.
The deadline for adoptions is Dec. 24.
Gose said the record number of children is likely attributable to the economy.
“I think it’s because we’ve seen some additional layoffs occur and people are finding themselves in situations they haven’t been in before. I call it the cumulative effect,” Gose said. “You take a single mother with three or four kids making $10 to $12 an hour, it’s tough to pay rent, buy clothing and pay all the bills, let alone buy Christmas gifts.”
Program applicants are screened against lists of similar assistance programs run by the Salvation Army, Boys & Girls Club and Bristol Faith in Action to make sure they aren’t already receiving help.
The all-volunteer agency has no paid staff and all funds are monitored through the United Way of Bristol.
For more information
- Phone: (276) 645-7304 or (276) 645-7450
- Online: www.santapalofbristol.com
- Address: Santa Pal, P.O. Box 212, Bristol, VA 24203