FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — In a year where everyone could use some cheer, the Place of Forsyth is asking the community to back its Holiday House to ensure kids from families struggling financially can open a gift during the holidays.
This year marks the sixth Holiday House program, which provides Christmas gifts for kids aged newborn to 18-years old from families struggling to make ends meet.
“Not only do these kids get to have a happy holiday, but this program also gives parents the joy of giving,” Jacob Granados, The Place of Forsyth’s director of purposeful engagement said. “We currently have 1,796 children fully registered for The Place Holiday House with more being processed.”
Granados said The Place has heard stories of parents diverting money from utilities, rent or food to provide their children with gifts for Christmas. In one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, he said, no one should have to carry that burden alone.
There is a need every year for Holiday House, but this year has been particularly difficult with so many out of work or facing financial hardships.
“COVID has certainly turned the tables on so many,” he said. “This year we have seen more need, especially for food, than any other time in our 45-year history.”
Joni Smith, President and CEO of The Place, said the organization is beginning to see an increase in the number of families seeking financial assistance to “keep a roof over their heads and utilities current and running.”
That makes this year’s Holiday House even more vital for the community.
“In a year that has been tumultuous, this program is even more important for parents to know that Christmas is taken care of, that they don’t have to face their children with nothing on December 25th,” Granados said.
It also benefits the area at large, providing the community with a way to unite and make a positive impact, he added.
Like the holiday season in general, this year’s Holiday House will be conducted differently.
Instead of having kids pick out toys and other items in a store, the Place is asking that donors purchase gifts through a wish list compiled by the parents of local kids. The wish lists include gifts from Amazon, Target and other retailers and can be accessed through theplaceofforsyth.org/holidayhouse. A list of several toy drop-off locations is also on the website.
The Place is hoping its Holiday House can provide joy for all this holiday season, as it has done for so many families in years prior.
“The response has been tremendous from both recipients and donors,” Granados said. “We have seen single parents and guardians leave crying so relieved that they can play Santa for their children. We have seen volunteers leave in tears having seen such expressions of gratitude, and for some, having seen the faces of poverty for the first time.”
As The Place looks to provide help to the community, it is also asking those in the area to help the organization. Granados said the group has set a goal to raise $350,000 by the end of the year to recoup lost revenues from its thrift store due to COVID-19 closure, and it needs to be “prepared for what may come.”