The harsh economy threatens to make it a cold, cheerless holiday for about 120 low-income residents of New Columbia – many of them kids.
Usually Toys for Tots and other charities provide gifts of toys, warm clothes and food for every low-income resident, says Leslie Esinga, New Columbia staff member.
This season, Toys for Tots was not able to provide for everyone who qualifies for their services.
"Those folks that were chosen were folks that fell within a certain income level," Esinga said. "They're some of the lowest income families at New Columbia, even though the need was even greater for some families."
So Esinga and others are mobilizing to recruit Samaritans willing to "adopt" families without the resources to purchase warm clothes or treats.
The Giving Tree Adoption Program allows people with resources to either choose an ornament with one family's gift list at the New Columbia Community Center, or call or email Esinga for an electronic list of gift items for one household.
"It may be that without this additional assistance over the holidays, families would not have a holiday," she said. "With the way this program's set up, we've gotten help from people from different organizations, but these are the last of the families that have yet to be adopted."
Esinga says she told participating families there was no guarantee that they would receive any assistance, but looking at the need that remains unfilled has been a painful experience.
"I was honest with these folks and said, in these economic times, you never know what the return is going to be," she said. Esinga suggests that companies or groups might take on one or two families, and that for private businesses, one department could help a family and another department could help another family.
She says contributors might want to help out with one big-ticket item, such as a cell phone or a camera or even a computer game.
"Because I asked families to pick out what are the basic things – coat sizes, shoe sizes, pajama sizes, if they need a food box," Esinga said. "But I also said – because it's the holidays – shoot for the stars, tell me three things you're really wishing for, because for me that's what the season is all about. You put your wish out there in the universe and you never know who's going to see or who's going to hear your wish."
To find out how to help, call Esinga at 503-289-6089, or on her cell phone, 503-730-6701.