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Season of Hope starting off strong for the giving season

Local non-profit organizations are gearing up for the giving season this holiday.

One of the biggest charities making local Christmases brighter for the past few decades has been St. Francois County Community Partnership’s (SFCCP’s) Season of Hope which, when COVID-19 altered its tradition last year of giving toys/clothing to needy kids referred by school districts and public agencies, the state-funded non-profit opted in favor of giving the families $75 gift cards, letting 1,061 parents of kids buy the gifts.

SFCCP Director Bill Bunch said while he realizes some might not think the gift cards offer the same emotional excitement as opening a wrapped toy, last year’s pivot worked out extremely well, and to be on the safe side, the gift cards are resuming this year.

“You know, last year we were worried about the gift cards, that it's not as personable as buying the gifts. We were concerned that donations would be down, but we had more donations last year than we ever had before,” Bunch said. “We collected more money because we weren't accepting any kind of toys or clothing.

"So right away, we collected about twice as much as we normally did. We ended up with a reserve to get started for this year, and everything's looking good so far.”

Parkland Toy Run was held recently by Parkland Cycle Servants, and raised more money than they ever have before, Bunch said.

“They just blew me away with the money they collected, I figure we got around $3,500 from that event,” he said. “The cycle servants, they had two other clubs there, the Statesmans and the Disciples, and Disciples wrote a check for $1,500 — it just blew me away.”

Bunch said other businesses and organizations seem to make Season of Hope a tradition — Centene employees regularly make Christmas brighter for more than 100 kids, and that’s not including the corporate donation.

And individuals seem to make Season of Hope a holiday tradition, as well.

“We have elderly donors who seem to enjoy shopping for children, and they still donated for the gift cards last year,” he said. “My wife and I, in previous years, bought for teenagers, and it was really different shopping for teens in this day and age than when we had teens living at home. It was interesting.”

The recipients of the gift cards — which SFCCP specially purchases so that they discourage the purchase of a parent or guardian’s alcohol, tobacco, firearms or lottery tickets — are referred to them by the county school districts, East Missouri Action Agency and all three Head Starts.

SFCCP also checks their referral list against Shop with a Cop’s “so there’s no double-dipping,” Bunch said.

“I don’t think people mean to double-dip, by the way, it can happen without them knowing they’ve been put on the same list. But we want to reach as many kids as we can and make the money go far.”

Those who want to help make local kids’ Christmas wishes come true can send monetary donations online through Pay Pal at https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/SeasonOfHopeSFCCP, or mail a check made out to SFCCP to 1101 Weber Road, Ste. 202, Farmington, MO 63640.

As always, all gifts are tax-deductible. Gift cards, preferably from Visa, Mastercard, Walmart or Amazon, can also be dropped off at the SFC Community Partnership office at the St. Francois County Weber Road facility, although the organization asks that the amount be noted on the back of the card, and increments of $25 would be appreciated. Gift card donations are needed no later than Dec. 6.

Individuals can call the SFC Community Partnership at 573-431-3173 for more information.

Bunch has been involved with the charity for a number of years now, so one might think he’s used to the miracle of giving that occurs in this area. But that’s not the case.

“This is totally funded by the community, we get no government funds for this,” Bunch said. “I have a gentleman from Ste. Genevieve County who told me one time, when I worked at East Missouri Action Agency, ‘Don't worry, don't worry about the money. It'll come. The money always rises to the level of need.’

“I've always remembered that, and it seems like it always does. You know, it's incredible. This county, that county, it doesn't matter. People know there's a need and those people will donate.”

Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at shaas@dailyjournalonline.com.

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