COLUMBIA – More than 5,500 individuals received special gifts this holiday season, thanks to donations from the Columbia community.
Charitable organizations worked with individuals, businesses, churches and other groups to provide gifts and services to those who may have gone without.
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Adopt a Family program, organized by the Voluntary Action Center. Families in need were assigned to 600 different organizations or individuals to provide gifts for 1,230 area families.
A variety of groups participated in the program, including all the MU athletic teams, junior high honor societies and numerous businesses in Columbia.
“It’s a whole community program that we’re involved in,” said Cindy Mustard, executive director of the Voluntary Action Center. “I like to say that everyone wants a little Christmas.”
Many of the holiday projects started as early as October. At the Salvation Army, 555 new cases came through the doors between Oct. 26 and Dec. 24.
“All those people came in to be served for the very first time,” said Maj. Katrina Mathews. “That has to be a record-breaker.”
Mathews said the increase in layoffs and job cuts is to blame.
A total of 1,562 people were served through the Salvation Army’s Christmas projects, which include shopping vouchers and toy distributions.
The state of the economy is not uplifting, but Mathews is positive about the new year ahead.
“You can never have a surplus, but you can always have enough,” said Mathews. “It’s tough, but we hope for a rainbow on the horizon.”
Charities encourage people to remember those in need during times outside of the holidays, as well. Donations are needed and appreciated all year around, local organizers said.