published: Friday, September 28, 2012
City kickstarting Christmas donation
program for families needing help
ROXANNE BROWN | Staff Writer
Ten years ago, city employees in Mascotte noticed that many local families were in need of help celebrating Christmas.
That's how the "families for families" community outreach program was born, and has since continued with a food and toy drives sponsored by city hall every year. This year marks the program's 10th anniversary.
"It's just a real blessing and people are always so appreciative," said City Clerk Michelle Hawkins, who with Stephanie Abrams, has headed the effort since 2007.
City staff are given names of Mascotte Elementary children. The names are then placed on the city's "Angel Tree, in the lobby of Mascotte City Hall.
Anyone wishing to adopt a child for Christmas can choose an angel with information about the cild -- such as gender, clothing and shoe size, toy wish list.
Once the person finishes shopping, the items and angel are returned to city hall, and the gifts are given to the families.
"It makes my heart so happy to know that these children, who may otherwise not be receiving anything, or very little, for Christmas, can have at least one thing to open up and make them smile," Hawkins said. "I think the parents feel the same way because when they come to pick up the toys, they are so thankful and grateful."
Hawkins is urging people to donate funds for the purchase of items for the children who don't get adopted and for gift cards for food to also be distributed to the families.
According to Hawkins, families for families helped nearly 90 children in 2009, about 150 in 2010 and about 250 in 2011.
This year, Hawkins said she anticipates the need to be at or above last year's numbers.
Members of the "Friends of Mascotte," an organization of residents who focus on raising money to give back to the city, will help package and distribute the toys before Christmas.
Hawkins said the time is now for people to lend a helping hand toward the program.
"We really, really need help and at the end of the day, it's for the kids. It can't get any more meaningful than that," Hawkins said.
People wanting to contribute can visit City Hall located at 100 E. Myers Blvd., Mascotte, Florida, 34753, or contact Michelle Hawkins at 352-429-3341.
The angel tree will be up next month and the distribution of gifts will take place on Dec. 10.
"We're getting calls already from families wanting to know if we'll be doing this, so it's not too early," Hawkins said.