By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – Westborough Youth and Family Services (WYFS) and the Rotary Club of Westborough are committed to helping local residents in need. But come December, that mission takes on an extra dimension – ensuring that all parents or caretakers are able to provide their children with a few special holiday gifts.
Since 2004, the groups have sponsored a free Holiday Gift Shop for families who are struggling perhaps with their finances or a medical crisis. All of the gifts are donated courtesy of generous residents, businesses and organizations. The shop, located in the auditorium in the Forbes Municipal Building, 4 West Main St., is open by appointment only and all visits are confidential.
Cathy Cairns, the WYFS administrative assistant, is overseeing the shop this year. She noted that WYFS first started the endeavor in 2001 and partnered with the Rotary Club in 2004.
“They help us with advertising, picking up gifts, and storing gifts at the end of the year to be used the next year,” she said.
Although the number of participating families changes each year, the still-struggling economy means there are many hurting, Cairns said.
But there is another constant – the generosity of the Westborough at-large community, she added.
“A lot of times businesses will hold toy drives at or in lieu of holiday parties,” she noted.
On Nov. 10, for the third year in a row, Westborough Girl Scout troops 30555 and 30635 handled decorating the stage of the auditorium, turning the space into a winter wonderland of sorts. Troop leaders Julie Baldwin, Eileen Nikopoulos and Nancy Wright noted that although they were reusing some decorations from past years, the Westborough Target store had also generously local decorations after the holiday season ended last year.
“We jumped at the chance to decorate here,” Baldwin said, of the troops” participation. “We'se always looking for more ways to help out in the community.”
The girls all agreed that giving up a Saturday afternoon to help out was not a hardship, especially in light of who would benefit from their work.
“Some people can's afford to give their kids presents; [the store] is an opportunity for them to get a few nice things,” Bhargavi Ram said. “I think it's a really good idea.”
“It's important to give back to your community and it's good to help people who don's have much,” Rachel Purcell noted.
Heidi Mannarino agreed and added, “Plus it's fun to do this with your friends!”
Those who are interested in donating gifts for the shop may do so in several ways. New, unwrapped items may be dropped off in the collection box just outside the WYFS office, Room 21 in the Forbes Municipal Building (FMB); at the Westborough Fire Department, 42 Milk St.; or the Westborough Library, 55 West Main St.
Suggested gifts for younger children include building sets, dolls, trucks, craft and science kits, or books. Suggested items for teens include make-up, jewelry, sweatshirts, iPods, DVDs, and gift cards to stores such as Target or Walmart.
Donations of gift wrap and new and “gently-used” winter coats are being accepted, as well.
Monetary donations are also welcome. Checks should be made out to the Rotary Club of Westborough, with the notation “Free Holiday Store,” and mailed to: Rotary Club of Westborough, P.O. Box 903, Westborough, MA, 01581.
To set up an appointment at the store, residents may call WYFS for an application (508-366-3090); email the office at [email protected] or pick up an application outside its office at the FMB, Room 21. Applications may also be downloaded from the town's website, www.town.westborough.ma.us/holidaystore.
Proof of residency, such as a driver's license, utility bill or tax bill, is required.