Less than 15 shopping days until Christmas! Letters to Santa Claus are being written and children are dreaming of presents under the Christmas tree. But in Scotland County, plenty of people are also remembering that it is better to give than receive.
A number of programs targeting area needy families are ensuring that everyone in Scotland County has a Merry Christmas.
The Christmas Wish program, a joint effort of the Scotland County R-I schools, Scotland County Divisions of Children and Family Services, ShopKo, Dollar General and J’s Foods and headed up by the United Methodist Church of Memphis, wrapped up efforts on December 5th to fill the Christmas lists of local families in need.
Patrons were able to adopt an anonymous child, picking their wish list off the Christmas tree at ShopKo, and completing the shopping for a child in need. Gift cards were also purchased thru J’s to provide a holiday meal and other food stuffs for families.
Project coordinator Stacy Browning of the UMC stated that local efforts helped fulfill the Christmas Wish for 42 families, including 118 children. That number was up slightly from 2015 when 38 families and 100 children were reached.
The gifts will be presented to the families and children on December 12th.
If you missed out on supporting the Christmas Wish, Ignite Ministries is hosting a similar Toys Under The Tree event on December 17th.
Church leader Les Richmond indicated that 35 families, with just shy of 100 children, were aided by last year’s program.
Donors provide gifts and financial support to the project, which provides one main gift of approximately $35 in value as well as additional smaller “stocking stuffer” items.
Parents can pick out the gifts for their children and have them wrapped right there at the church.
Toys Under the Tree will be held Saturday, December 17th from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.
“If you need help putting Christmas gifts under the tree, there are lots of people in Scotland County that want to help,” said Richmond.
According to the Missouri Community Action Network, the poverty rate in Scotland County is 16.3%. In neighboring counties, that number is 18.2% in Schuyler, 15.7% in Clark, 19.4% in Knox and 26.9% in Adair.
All are above the 14.8% level for the state, where 875,495 Missourians are at 100% or below the Federal Poverty Level, which for a family of four is $24,250. Roughly 30% of those in poverty are children.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 was the high water mark for poverty in the state, when 16.2% of the population lived in poverty. The mark was declined each of the past three recording periods.
The United States Department of Agriculture reported Missouri’s food insecurity rate at 15.2% in 2016, meaning that more than 1 in 7 of the state’s residents at times has problems accessing adequate food.
That is one of the driving forces behind the local Tiger Packs program, which provides nutritious breakfasts, lunches and snacks on weekends for children who are eligible for the free breakfast/lunch program offered through the public school system.
Sponsored in part by the Scotland County Ministerial Alliance, the program currently serves more than 80 children in the Scotland County R-I school system and the Head Start program.
The program was supported by a fundraising drive at the recent Community Thanksgiving Service as well as by the local Boy Scouts, who have been collecting donations at public events such as the recent Christmas Bazaar in Memphis.
The local giving efforts aren’t limited to children.
The Scotland County Care Center and Residential Terrace offers the Angel tree program, which allows community members to adopt a resident(s) at the facilities to help wish them a Merry Christmas.
Started nearly a decade ago, the Angel ornaments on the tree feature information about a resident, with gift ideas, including dietary restrictions.
Tammy Hammond, activities director at SCCC said the number of angles ranges from 60 to 75 each year, with community members as well as SCCC staff and family, providing gifts of bath products, snacks, games, reading materials and clothing.
“This year we have 64 angels on the tree,” said Hammond. “Boy are the residents surprised and uplifted when they see their package.”