The elves at Human Service Programs (HSP) are working overtime to pair local families in need with families who want to help their neighbors during the holiday season.
HSP's annual Neighbors in Need (NIN) holiday giving program is underway. So far 1,090 families have applied for holiday assistance according to Program Manager Lori Graham. Last year, approximately 1,400 families received holiday assistance through NIN Graham said.
NIN allows families and individuals in need to request assistance over the holidays. According to Graham, the goal is to get as many of those families and individuals in need adopted by people interested in giving back over the holiday season.
Those who are not adopted by individuals, churches, businesses, and social and civic groups, will be invited to select donated items for themselves and their families at a three-day event in December.
According to Graham, adopting a family means finding out what the needs and wants of the family members are and purchasing gifts accordingly, within your budget. People interested in adopting can specify if they want to support someone in a particular part of the county or if they want to help a family with children or seniors or help people with particular hardships such as medical challenges, etc.
Those applying for assistance have been carefully screened to ensure there is a need Graham said. And she added that HSP works with other organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Department of Social Services to avoid overlap, or families getting services from multiple organizations.
For those who want to donate but do not want to adopt a family or individual, NIN is accepting donations of unused and unwrapped goods, cash and giftcards. In mid-December, those individuals and families in need who have not been adopted will be invited to shop from the selection of donated goods.
Graham said the program is in particular need of donated goods for teens, middle-aged men and seniors.
Obviously NIN helps the families receiving support but Graham said that for many, it's the giving that makes the holidays seem complete.
"NIN provides an opportunity for people to see that there are more underprivileged people in Carroll County than we think," Graham said. "One donor told me it made her kids look at people different and not be so judgmental because everyone has a situation and until you know what that is, you shouldn’t judge."
HSP Executive Director Cindy Parr said that they will be expanding Neighbors in Need to make it a year-round giving program. She said the holiday giving program is an important component of NIN but that people are seeking assistance throughout the year.
"The essence of what we do is we work diligently to help people stay housed," Parr said. "We don’t want people to be homeless. Most of what we do is focused on preventing homelessness."
Parr said that HSP serves approximately 9,000 individuals throughout the year and for many of those receiving assistance, staying housed is dependent on being able to pay energy bills and managing through emergency situations.
"We work to keep people in their homes, keep them warm, help them get work and get to work--accomplishing this provides far more benefits than trying to help people after they are homeless," Parr said.
By expanding the NIN program into a year-round giving campaign, Parr said she hopes to fill some gaps left by funding cuts from other sources.
Graham said that of the 1,090 families already signed up to receive assistance through this year's program, 501 of them have already been adopted.