BENNINGTON >> After an initial surge of support, Spirit of Sharing is still looking for volunteers to donate Christmas presents for 122 children in need within the community.
This year represents the second year the program has collected Christmas presents for families in need since it was revived in 2014. Prior to that, the program existed in Bennington from 1983 to around 2008. Anne Mook, former state representative from Bennington, member of the Catamount Rotary Club, and one of the organizers of the program, said that, with the program's success in its first year, and the number of families in need in Bennington, they are hoping to collect gifts for 295 children, almost double the 159 that were served last year.
However, said Mook and Sadie Fischesser, Agency of Human Services field director for Bennington and Windham counties, said that they have not yet found groups or individuals willing to sponsor gifts for 122 of those children. The cost of one gift for one child is between $25-$35. They said that individuals and groups, such as those from the Mount Anthony Union High School Interact Club, Bennington College, Bank of Bennington, Greater Heights Tree and Land Management, and more, are to thank for the 173 children across 69 families that have already been adopted by volunteers.
Fischesser suggested that departments within businesses could team up to purchase gifts for two to three children if $25 a person is more than each individual can afford to give. Mook said that several members of the Rotary Club had already banded together to do just that. They said that there were still families of all sizes needing to be matched up with volunteers. "However the volunteer wants to do it, we'll make it work," said Fischesser.
However the deadline to register as a volunteer is rapidly approaching. According to Mook, applications have to be submitted by next Monday, Dec. 14, so that volunteers can be matched with families. Volunteers will then purchase and bring the gifts to the Department of Economic Services, on the second floor of the State Office Building on North Street by 4 p.m. on Dec. 17. Families will be able to pick up the gifts between then and Christmas Eve, although some families have requested that the presents be delivered due to extenuating circumstances, and the program's organizers are looking for volunteers to aid in that as well. "We, as a community, need to step up between now and Monday morning," said Mook.
If enough volunteers are not found, said Fischesser, they will have to call families and inform them that the program will be unable to provide presents for their children, which she described as a "very emotional conversation." Because families are matched with volunteers on a rough first-come-first-served basis, the families that would not be able to be served would be those who signed up later, not those who are considered less in need of help. "It's not to say that those are not needy families," said Mook, "We have a lot of need in this community."
Anyone interested in more information about become involved with Spirit of Sharing can contact Fischesser at email@example.com.