BROOKVILLE — Although it’s still 10 weeks until Christmas, volunteers from area churches and groups are working with the Brookville Food Pantry to make their lists and check them twice to make Christmas brighter for less fortunate area children.

A meeting was held last week at the food pantry to begin preliminary planning for this year’s Toys for Angels and Salvation Army Christmas programs.

Tawnia Norris explained the programs, saying that if a family qualifies for assistance from the food pantry, it qualifies for the Christmas toy programs. Families who qualify for the Salvation Army programs also qualify for assistance at the food pantry. Financial eligibility is the same for both programs.

“Last year people who came in for the Salvation Army sign-up, we were able to steer them to the food pantry,” she said.

The Toys for Angels program provides Christmas gifts for children from birth through 18. Older children may qualify if they are still in high school.

The Salvation Army’s program provides gifts for children up to age 12. Children who are too old for the Salvation Army gifts are moved into the Toys for Angels program.

Kathy Dinger said one of the reasons for combining the services “is an attempt to streamline the programs. There were some people who were going to every possible agency and getting gifts. We want to help as many kids as possible.”

The Christmas gift program consists of two parts: gifts and treat bags. When parents sign up for the gift program, they fill out a form for each child, listing specific needs, sizes and interests. Parents are asked to be realistic in their requests. “We try to encourage educational things,” Norris said, and emphasized that the names of the children are kept discreet. Each child usually receives at least four gifts, including clothing and toys.

When gifts are brought in, they are unwrapped. “There is no suggested amount for a person to spend on gifts,” Dinger said, “but we do ask that all price tags and bar codes be removed so they can’t be returned to the stores for cash. We did have a couple of issues with that happening.”

Gifts are carefully checked over to make sure no dangerous items, such as hunting knives, were donated, before they are placed in dark colored bags and given to the parents. “Mom and Dad take the gifts home and wrap them, to be Santa Claus,” Norris said.

Treat bags are also prepared for the children, and include treats such as microwave popcorn, hot chocolate and candy canes. “Basically it is the kind of stuff we would usually put in Christmas stockings,” Norris said. One church also provides a small religious item for the bags. Last year 250 treat bags were prepared.

Besides the program for Christmas gifts, the Salvation Army also offers its Bundle Up program, to provide coats, hats, gloves, scarves and boots to children and senior citizens.

Any organization, business or church that would like to help by doing a coat drive or by collecting gloves, hats, socks, etc., is asked to contact Robin Orris or Tawnia Norris for details.

The Toys for Angels and Salvation Army programs service children “basically in the Brookville Area School District,” Norris said.

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Last year gifts were provided for about 160 children.

Sign-ups for the Salvation Army program will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, October 24, and Thursday, October 31.

Sign-up dates for the Toys for Angels program will be November 7 and 14. All sign-ups will be held at the food pantry.

Items required to sign up for the Christmas programs are: photo ID, proof of age for each child, proof of income or benefits, and proof of address within the Brookville area.

A meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, November 18, at the food pantry to distribute tags with children’s information to participating area churches and groups.

Anyone wanting more information about the Christmas assistance programs can contact

Robin Orris at 856-3291 or Tawnia Norris at 648-0819.

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