‘Hope for the Holidays’ returns in Marlborough
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – For the second year, the United Way of Tri-County is offering its “Hope for the Holidays” program in Marlborough to help brighten the season for families in need of assistance. Previously, the city’s Human Services Department organized a similar program for many years known as “Holiday Helpers.”
Barbara LaGrenade, the director of volunteerism at the United Way of Tri-County and the office coordinator at the Marlborough Community Cupboard, said the transition of the holiday programs has gone smoothly.
“We were able to get enough notice out to the community that the change had taken place and applications were being accepted at the Marlborough Community Cupboard,” she said. “I believe the response we got was a lot larger than the response they’ve had in previous years, according to some of the data they had given us.”
The program collects and distributes toys and clothes for children up to age 18 who have an existing relationship with one of the local social service providers including the South Middlesex Opportunity Council, the Marlborough clubhouse of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metrowest, or the Marlborough Community Cupboard at the Walker Building, formerly known as the Marlborough Food Pantry.
Families complete a form and list three gift requests. That information is given to the United Way, and they seek sponsors within the community.
They received over 750 gift requests this year, which is more than last year, LaGrenade said. Fortunately, more residents have offered to be sponsors.
“Individual sponsors have increased probably about 50 percent,” she said. “We have more residents coming and ‘adopting’ either a child or a family. The corporations might have cut back a little on the number they sponsor, but it’s being picked up by the community.”
Many of the requests get filled thanks to several toy drives conducted by faith organizations, businesses and residents.
“If a family gives us three choices for a gift, we try our best to match at least one of those gifts perfectly,” LaGrenade explained. “If a child isn’t sponsored, or if we don’t have the items from the toy drives, then we use donations we’ve received to go out and purchase one of the items that’s most important to the child.”
The gift requests aren’t always for toys. Often, they ask for winter clothing.
“Not only through the ‘Hope for the Holidays’ program, but also here at the Marlborough Community Cupboard, we’re finding that families are coming in looking for coats, hats, mittens and boots for the whole family,” noted LaGrenade.
While the need is greater during winter months, a donation of new clothing is helpful year-round.
LaGrenade also expressed her gratitude to those who donate their time.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this program without the volunteers,” she said. “There’s only a few of us on the staff. We have about 200 volunteers at this time of the year. It’s very important they come and help organize the bags and prepare for distribution. Having these volunteers is a big asset.”
The families receiving assistance are also grateful.
“Some of the parents get teary-eyed when they pick up the gifts,” LaGrenade said. “This is giving them hope that they otherwise wouldn’t have if we didn’t have the sponsors.”
To further assist those in need, United Way of Tri-County launched the “Feed-A-Family for Fifty” campaign. A donation of $50 will provide a holiday dinner for four. For Thanksgiving, the program provided turkey and fixings for 487 families in Marlborough. That campaign will continue through the end of the year.
For information, visit uwotc.org/Feed4Fifty.
Barbara LaGrenade can be contacted at 508-481-4080, ext. 102.
(Photos/Ed Karvoski Jr.)
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