St. Francois County Community Partnership’s Season of Hope program is set to make Christmas better and brighter for more than 1,200 children this year.

St. Francois County Community Partnership Executive Director Bill Bunch said so far they have 1,266 children signed up for Season of Hope. They are expecting that number to climb to about 1,300 in the next few days.

Season of Hope is a community-wide effort. It simply could not be done without the community’s help year after year.

Schools, churches, groups, businesses and individuals sign up to be sponsors of families. Based on the number of children they wish to sponsor, the groups are provided a wish list, simply listing each child’s age, gender and their needs and wants. Those wishes range from winter coats, shoes, and clothing to toys.

Sponsorships are the most helpful way to help Season of Hope because it better meets the needs of families and expedites the whole process.

Of the 1,266 children signed up, 547 are sponsored. Last year, they helped 1,554 children and of those, 654 were sponsored.

“That leaves us well over 700 (unsponsored children) to shop for,” he said. “We utilize (referring agencies/schools) to shop. It is a monumental task.”

Shopping is slated to take place over the course of a week – from Dec. 2-9.

While sponsorships are requested, there are many ways to help.

You can volunteer to shop or sort. You can purchase and donate new toys. You can send a cash donation that will be used to sponsor a child or a family. You can even make the donation in memory or in honor of someone. You can also purchase gift cards for teen clothing or cell phone cards.

Sponsors and donors are asked to drop off unwrapped donated items Dec. 2-9. The packing center will be in a different location this year. It will be at the rear of 601 Buckley Street in Park Hills.

After Dec. 9, volunteers and SFCCP staff will focus on divvying everything up and getting everything ready to be delivered by school before Christmas break.

“Hopefully there is no inclement weather where the schools close,” he said. They’ve run into the problem at least once over the years.

Any donation delivered after Dec. 9 will likely be held for next year’s Season of Hope. He said they won’t turn away toys or donations. They accept any donation, big or small.

Bunch said Dollar General in Doe Run and Menards in Farmington are holding toy drives to benefit Season of Hope. He said last year Menards collected two truckloads of items.

He is thankful for all the groups and businesses who help. He said the Girls Night Out and Parkland Toy Run this fall collected a lot of items for Season of Hope.

If you would like to become a sponsor or want more information on Season of Hope, call 573-431-3173.

Season of Hope began in 1999. Referrals come from schools and agencies such as East Missouri Action Agency and Head Start programs in St. Francois County. Parents then provide a wish list of items for each.

All donations to Season of Hope are tax deductible and may be mailed to SFCCP, 1101 Weber Road Suite 202, Farmington MO 63640. If you would like a tax letter for toy and clothing donations, keep those receipts. Your monetary donations receive an automatic tax-deductible letter.

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