The annual Santa Sacks program takes place at the Lewisport Community Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on December 17. Santa Sacks is a collaborative program with Toys for Tots and St Vincent dePaul to provide a well-rounded Christmas for Hancock County families. Each program provides something different to each family.
Santa Sacks provides all the food needed for a Christmas meal, Santa Sacks organizer Noel Quinn said.
“They get turkey, dressing, potatoes, pie, rolls, fruit cocktail and fresh fruit,” Quinn said. “They also get cranberry sauce, corn, green beans, sweet potatoes, mixed vegetables and macaroni and cheese.”
Quinn said 280 families already signed up for the program this year. She purchased enough food for 300 families.
“Everybody is going to get the exact same thing,” Quinn said. “They do not need to get there early.”
Quinn said the programs always need monetary donations to purchase everything needed for the giveaway. She said people can make a generic donation and they will use it where needed, or people can designate where they want to money to go. For example, a person can say he or she wants the money to go for food, toys, or for shoes.
Toys For Tots provides toys for all the children signed up through the school system and also at St. Vincent dePaul, Beth Payne said. Payne is the manager of St. Vincent dePaul in Lewisport.
“We need help with toys,” Payne said. “Anyone wanting to donate toys, they can be dropped in any Toys for Tots box in the county, or at St. Vincent dePaul.”
Payne said St. Vincent dePaul provides kids signed up through the school system new shoes, socks, coats and underwear. She said the organization also provides these things to families with children too young for school, provided they sign up with St. Vincent dePaul for these items.
“The last day to sign up through St. Vincent dePaul is December 2,” Payne said. “They must sign up from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.”
Quinn and Payne stressed all monetary donations given to the organization go towards purchasing items to be given out on December 17. None of the programs take any of the money for administrative expenses.
“We use 100-percent of the money,” Quinn said.
This year the Santa Sacks program operates on a different format. It is a drive-thru event. There will be two lines, one for the food giveaway, and the other line for the toys and clothing.
“Parents do not get to come in the building,” Payne said. “The volunteers will bag up the toys and bring them out to the waiting vehicles.”
Payne said when families sign up either through the school system or St. Vincent dePaul they fill out a list with toy suggestions on it. The toys for each family come from that list.
Since the giveaway will be a drive-thru event, the biggest volunteer need comes on that day. Payne said on the day of the giveaway they need volunteers helping to direct traffic, communicate the names of families via walkie-talkie with staff inside the community center and people to ferry the items out to waiting vehicles.
“We are going to need volunteers,” both Payne and Quinn said. “We wish and pray that anybody that is compromised would please stay home and come back and help us next year.”
By compromised, they meant both people with COVID-19 symptoms, and people with health conditions that makes them susceptible to contracting the virus. Quinn and Payne said they did not want any of their elderly volunteers to contract COVID-19.
On the day of the giveaway, there will be signs directing people where to go for the giveaway. Watch for the signs, and for any volunteers directing traffic. By Ralph Dickerson