As stores fill their shelves with toys and houses light up the streets with holiday decorations, the Highland County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition is organizing its annual Christmas Wish drive to help local families in need.
At noon on Thursday, the group met at the Highland County Community Action Organization Inc. building in Hillsboro to discuss the fundraiser.
Janet Fair, Christmas Wish organizer, said the drive is “based on family needs.”
Though it is centered in the Hillsboro middle school and high school, the fundraiser benefits all children, including those in elementary and preschool, in deserving families.
When it comes to making sure families are able to celebrate the Christmas holiday, Fair said, “Whatever I need to do, I’ll get it out to the kids.”
Christmas Wish, Fair said, is designed to help families who cannot get help from other agencies.
In addition, Fair said she monitors the program to make sure no one is “taking advantage of the system.”
The coalition, she said, involves all of Highland County, not just Hillsboro. As an example, she said the group’s president is a minister in Greenfield. Also, she said that several other local programs are a part of the drive, such as Community Action and Head Start.
”There are a lot of people involved,” she said.
Christmas Wish first began, Fair said, about six years ago when she asked a young man about his plans for Christmas, and he responded that his family could not have Christmas because they “had no money.”
Since that time, Christmas Wish has worked to not only give local families a holiday, but to also help them through difficult times.
At its start, Christmas Wish helped only a few families. Now, however, that number has grown.
Fair said there are already 16 families signed up for the Christmas Wish program.
The program, she said, is accepting “really anything” as donations. Some items that can be donated include toys, gas cards, or gift cards.
Even a $5 dollar gas card, Fair said, can aid a family in need.
”That little bit helps get people to the grocery store or to doctor’s appointments,” she said.
Additionally, Fair said any monetary donations would be used to purchase toys and gifts for children in deserving families.
The fundraiser, Fair said, is ultimately a community effort.
The school and its students, Fair said, have played a huge part in the Christmas Wish fundraiser.
”School personnel don’t make much money,” she said, “but they’re always willing to help and assist.”
Fair said that groups such as the National Honor Society, the National Junior Honor Society, and the FFA all help needy families during the holiday season, through both the Christmas Wish fundraiser as well as other volunteer activities, such as Adopt-a-Family and donating baskets of fruit.
Fair also said a school group called EPIC gives time to the Christmas Wish fundraiser by wrapping presents. Additionally, during their study hall periods, many other students wrap gifts as well.
”The kids,” Fair said, “are learning about helping others.”
According to Fair, however, the coalition works to help others, not only during the holiday season, but also throughout the year.
The group has been a part of various community programs, including Red Ribbon Week at local schools.
Fair said Red Ribbon Week is a national program, but that the coalition works to organize similar substance abuse education activities throughout all Highland County schools.
The group also organizes Soles for Students, which runs throughout the year and ensures that students have shoes to wear to school.
”I can’t tell you how many kids,” Fair said, the Soles for Students program has helped.
Therefore, Christmas Wish, Fair said, is just one of many programs that offers aid to those in need while also encouraging community involvement.
”I get a lot of help from the staff at school and the FRS staff and anyone who wants to help,” Fair said.
According to Fair, last year 14 families (more than 75 people) were helped through Christmas Wish.
Additionally, The Cutting Crew Hair Salon has said it wants to offer free haircuts for every gift that is brought in for one of Hillsboro’s students on the Christmas Wish list.
The coalition’s goal is to have everything to the families by the Dec. 18 or 19.
For more information, Fair can be reached at Hillsboro Middle School at 937-393-9877, or at FRS at 937-393-4562.