While remaining a time of joy and celebration, this year’s holiday season may pose additional stresses and concerns for families–many of whom may be afraid that they will be unable to provide their children with the festive gifts and holiday feasts that distinguish the season.
In the Hernando community, a number of philanthropic organizations are stepping forward to address these concerns–ensuring that children and families throughout the area have a merry Christmas.
Lt. Julie Chamberlain, who oversees The Salvation Army of Brooksville/Hernando County with Lt. Mike Chamberlain, offers multiple ways for Hernando residents to support those in need, through a plethora of Salvation Army programs.
“We are looking for items for our Angel Tree recipients,” she said. “Trees are currently located at all 3 Walmart Supercenters, Ring Power, Burn Bootcamp, and Bealls on Cortez. To adopt an angel, simply select it from the tree and shop for the items listed on the tag. Donors can then drop the items off either at the old Sears building on Cortez or at our location: 15464 Cortez Blvd.”
Common items requested through this program, said Chamberlain, include hygiene items for teenagers, LOL Surprise dolls, LEGOs, clothes and shoes of all sizes, and twin size bedding.
“This is a fun thing that can be done by a group, family, or individual. We also take donations of new, unwrapped toys and clothes to help in fulfilling the needs we have received. Also, our Christmas kettles are out and in full swing,” said Chamberlain. “All monetary donations put in our kettles stay right here in Hernando County and help us to help those in need all year long. This year has been particularly hard for so many of our residents and we are doing our best to keep up with the demand for food items, utility assistance and emergency prescriptions assistance as well as emergency housing.”
To donate funds to the Salvation Army, visit https://give.salvationarmyflorida.org/give/277971/#!/donation/checkout. Much needed donations of nonperishable food, baby supplies, hygiene products, cleaning and sanitizing items, and paper products, are being accepted at 15464 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville. Call (352) 796-1186 for more information.
Shannon Sokolowski, MNM, Executive Director of Dawn Center Domestic & Sexual Violence Services, said that the center is facing additional challenges this holiday season, this owing to the aftermath of a summer fire that caused severe damage to the shelter facility.
“Sadly, we just heard that we are facing additional construction delays so our repairs will be ongoing into early January,” said Sokolowski. “This is a little limiting for us regarding space to store holiday items, gifts, or food….Our holiday wish list … is mindful of storage space limitations.”
For the kids, Dawn Center is requesting Walmart/Target gift cards, backpacks, art supplies, new sports balls, nail polish, new coloring books, headphones, and fleece blankets. Needed gift items for adults include Walmart/Target gift cards, purses, scarves, perfume/cologne, make-up/nail polish, jewelry/watches, journals, coffee mugs, and bath kits.
To arrange donations, write Amanda at [email protected] or call (352) 592-1288.
The Hernando County chapter of The SEED Foundation, is a 501(c)3 organization serving working class families who fall on hard times, regardless of their religious preferences, political views, or ethnicity. And in a time of pandemic, many more seeds of aid must be planted by gracious donors.
One of the foundation’s current clients is a mother with many children and no government support–one moving her family into their first rental house after escaping a bad home situation.
“So much money needed to move in, so Christmas presents and furniture are a dream right now to her,” said Judy Mastro, President for The SEED Foundation of Hernando County. “She needs beds, preferably (2) bunk beds and (2) twins, as well as, her kids are all asking for bicycles, except the young ones….Of course, any presents would be appreciated.”
The children are boys and girls, aged 1-17. In addition, the family’s automobile is in major need of repair, with repairs set to cost approximately $1500.
“Any mechanic help would be appreciated,” said Mastro. “Please tag gifts or checks payable to The SEED Foundation as donation as #196.”
Also among SEED Foundation beneficiaries, said Mastro, is a “desperate couple, woman cannot work, man just got laid off, will collect unemployment (they are in the waiting period now), but is trying to actively look for another job. Main concerns are electric, cell phone, internet, gas cards and car insurance…all needed for him to apply and look for a job. If anyone can help, checks can be made to The SEED Foundation. Please tag donation as #197.”
SEED Foundation also needs donations in order to support its ongoing efforts on behalf of working class families in this community. For while inquiries for help are surging with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic also limited the amount of funds raised through the Snow Bash, the foundation’s main annual fund-raiser.
“Due to Covid, our attendance was 30% of our normal Snow Bash attendance, also, not having a main sponsor for the same reason, we just about broke even. This event income normally carries us almost all the way through the year to help our people, along with smaller events that were all cancelled in 2020,” said Mastro. “This is not the case this year, and so The SEED Foundation could use donations as well for this coming year.”
Mastro remains pleased with the results of their signature event.
“We have no regrets launching Snow Bash as we still feel it was needed for community spirit, everyone had a great time and we were happy to provide a Covid Safe Event with thanks to 19 commercial Covid cleaners who volunteered from Shine So Brite Janitorial Service,” she said.
To donate to The SEED Foundation, visit https://theseedfoundation.org/donate/.
Jericho Road Ministries
Jericho Road Ministries in Brooksville shares this determination to serve the neediest of families throughout the holiday season.
Jericho’s needs, says VP of Programs Cheryl Hart, range from food and clothes to gift items.
“At our Food Barn we are preparing Christmas Food Hampers and would like to put a turkey or ham in each of the 100 boxes. Also, we would additionally like to give a gift to each child up to age 17, in each of those families,” said Hart. “You can donate these items at our Food Barn on Tuesdays 9-12 or at any of our thrift stores when they are open. The cut off date is 12/17/20. The Food Barn is located at 1165 Howell Ave. Brooksville.”
At the shelters, Jericho has put out the call for:
Shoes (tennis and dress) adult sizes from size 6 to size 14 men, women sizes 6 to 11 (1 inch heel maximum)
Jeans – (men and women) all sizes
Dress shirts – men, all sizes up to 5x
Dress pants – women, all sizes up to 3x
Dress pants – men, all sizes
Women’s Blouses, all sizes
Women’s dresses, all sizes
Polo shirts, men and women, all sizes
Winter jackets, all sizes, men and women
Underwear, all sizes, men and women.
Dress socks and athletic socks, all sizes
Shelter donations can be dropped off at the Men’s Shelter, 11014 N Broad St, Brooksville.
For any questions, contact Cheryl Hart at (352) 573-8706.
Aside from their intense need this holiday season, these vital help agencies share something else: a keen appreciation for those who help.
“We appreciate the generosity of our friends who help support our mission of doing all we can to support those in our community that need it most,” said Julie Chamberlain, Salvation Army of Hernando County.
Fostering Hope Florida, Inc.
Gifts for foster children are needed by Fostering Hope Florida, which strives to provide aid for foster children 0-18. Fostering Hope Florida, according to the organization’s website at https://www.fosteringhopeflorida.org/about-us.html, “is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing help to foster children and foster families in the Tampa Bay area. We provide homes, called Hope Houses, to foster parents who are interested in fostering siblings in foster care in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties. We rely on donations to provide foster families with the necessary things to maintain an enriched family life. Foster children often come from difficult backgrounds and need a lot of nurturing, support and love from their foster families to help them enjoy the childhood they deserve.”
“What we’re looking for especially are bikes for Christmas this year,” said Gloria West Lawson, Executive Director of Fostering Hope Florida, Inc.,
www.fostering hope florida.org. “The sight of a bike under the Christmas tree is always magical. And especially this year, more kids need activities they can do outside.”
Toys and gift cards are also welcome, and can be dropped off at Fostering Hope Kidz Closet, 5310 Spring Hill Dr, Spring Hill, and at Gino’s Place, 13793 Linden Dr, Spring Hill.
“We provide toys for all foster children, and children in recently reunited families, who need them. These are the kids you don’t always see on angel trees,” said West-Lawson. “I don’t turn away anyone who needs toys for children.”
The Pace Center for Girls
The Pace Center for Girls in Hernando County was founded in 2018 to serve middle and high school girls “who are struggling but want to make positive changes in their lives. As a movement, Pace was founded in 1985 to provide an opportunity for young women and girls to create a better future through education, counseling, training, and advocacy.” Pace helps more than 3,000 girls every year throughout the state of Florida–including right here in Hernando County.
And this time of year, Pace also seeks holiday gifts for these girls in need.
“Gift cards to Target, Walmart or Amazon would be perfect,” said Diana Jerome, Community Engagement Manager – Pasco & Hernando.
“At Pace Hernando, our girls are getting very excited about the upcoming Holiday season. In this season of COVID, our students have persevered through all of the changes 2020 has presented. Some of our girls are working remotely in an Innovative Learning Environment, while the remaining students are attending each day at the Center. Pace Hernando has continued to provide academic and counseling services to all of our girls during this challenging time. Due to COVID concerns, several of our families are struggling with the economic impact of the pandemic. Providing food for their families, paying for rent/utilities and just trying to manage daily living expenses, has become a very difficult situation for a large majority of our Pace families. During this Holiday season, traditional gifts have now lent their way to gift items that can serve the entire family, such as Target, Walmart or Amazon gift cards. Donations can be sent to:
Pace Center for Girls
“We always appreciate it when people step forward to help the girls,” said Jerome. “And the girls so, so appreciate it.”