The St. Francois County Community Partnership is looking for volunteers in coming days to help with the Season of Hope program.
Executive Director Bill Bunch said the partnership is in the busy time — with items from sponsored families arriving at the packing facility while shopping takes place for other families this week into next week.
“We’re getting into the heavy part of the season,” he said, adding volunteers are needed any day — but this Friday and Dec. 12 are especially busy days.
“When we start sorting the gifts out for the schools — the toys that are donated through various toy drives and what we purchase — it’s a big task to get that all sorted out and bagged up for each family so when the schools come in and pick it up, it’s ready to go.”
Volunteers are needed to help shop and pack gifts by families for the Head Start program on Friday. Then, on Dec. 12, volunteers will shop in the morning for the Farmington R-7 School District and pack in the afternoon.
Those able to volunteer through either shopping for the program or working at the packing center — or both, if possible — are asked to call the partnership offices at 573-760-0212.
The time crunch comes in the fact many schools dismiss for Christmas break more than one week before the holiday, with one local district dismissing on Dec. 13. The chance for inclement weather only adds to that time crunch, Bunch said.
Bunch said partnership had a good response this year for the Season of Hope program. Now in its 19th year, the program serves students in the county’s five school districts. The program served a total of 1,305 children from 536 families in 2016.
He received a large toy donation on Monday from a drive held by the employees at SRG Global in Farmington.
“The employees got together and I filled up a pick-up truck with toys,” he said, noting cash donations for the Season of Hope program are accepted throughout the year.
Statistics show 18.2 percent of children in St. Francois County live in poverty – above the state average of 14 percent.
Children are referred to the program through staff at the five school districts, the Children’s Division of the Department of Family Services or the East Missouri Action Agency.
“We absolutely could not do (Season of Hope) without the community’s input,” Bunch said. “We don’t spend any of the partnership money on this other than our time and labor. And, we can’t spend a lot of that because we have other things to do.
“We depend heavily on volunteers and, of course, the community for their donations. Every year, it comes in like clockwork and we’re able to help the kids of St. Francois County.”