NORTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — The holidays are approaching, and that means it’s busy season at North Fulton Community Charities. 

The Roswell-based nonprofit spends much of the year addressing homelessness and hunger. But the focus shifts to easing the financial strain on struggling families in the lead up to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

On Oct. 5, NFCC opened applications from families for five holiday giveback programs. North Fulton County is on pace for a record year of need. NFCC officials said more than 700 families signed up for holiday help through the first week of registration.

“We have never seen this high a demand,” NFCC Executive Director Holly York said. “We just have had to add so many families because of COVID that have never been in this situation before.”

The nonprofit has organized a winter coat drive and is collecting turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner giveaways. That coincides with donations being accepted for senior gift baskets and a holiday toy drive. Families in financial crisis can also begin signing up for a holiday sponsor later this month.

York said she expects the number of people who participate in this year’s slate of holiday programs will be more than double the usual rate.

York said organizers will make a number of changes this year to keep participants and volunteers socially distanced. That could mean restricting the number of families allowed at giveaways and scheduling more pick-up dates.

This month is a critical period. The program needs more food and gift donations, and volunteers are needed in abundance to handle the high demand. York encouraged schools and businesses to organize toy and food drives, but she said she understands that could be a challenge during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re having to be more creative, more flexible,” York said. “We’ll be especially challenged because many offices that normally do that for us are not working in person, so they’re not going to be able to do the toy drives. And then our biggest food drives in the North Fulton area was the schools this time of year. And they’re just going back.”

Coat drive

Warm Coat Day has kicked off NFCC’s holiday assistance season for the past 13 years. Last year, about 1,900 new and gently worn coats, jackets, hats, scarves and gloves were distributed. This month, those items can be donated through Oct. 31 at the Ed Isakson/Alpharetta YMCA, 3655 Preston Ridge Road. NFCC has registered a wish list of items at Target. The charity will continue to accept donations Nov. 2-4 at the Old Thomasville Furniture store, 310 North Point Parkway Circle. The donations will be handed out to families in need the first week of November. Visit: nfcchelp.org/warm-coat-day.

Thanksgiving Food Distribution

NFCC will receive food donations Nov. 17-19 for the annual Thanksgiving Food Distribution. Last year’s turkey drive served 445 families. The annual giveaway provides families with a frozen turkey, a gift card to Kroger or Publix and bags of non-perishable goods for a home-cooked Thanksgiving Day feast. The items will be distributed to families Nov. 21-23. Volunteers are needed to help receive and distribute items. Visit: nfcchelp.org/thanksgiving-food-distribution.

Senior Baskets

More than 150 holiday baskets are given to disabled residents and isolated seniors each November and December. The Thanksgiving and Christmas gift baskets, delivered Nov. 14 and Dec. 13, are decorated then filled with grocery store gift cards, non-perishable food items for holiday dinner and a small trinket.

Volunteers are needed to deliver the baskets, which residents can donate Nov. 12 and Dec. 9. Visit: nfcchelp.org/senior-baskets.

Santa Shop

Nearly 1,500 children in need got toys through the Santa Shop last year. Unwrapped toys, supplied by donors, are arranged as gift options for parents to select for their kids.

Toys for young children and gift cards for teens are always in high demand. Donors can drop off gifts Dec. 13-17, and the toys are handed out to families Dec. 16-20.

“It’s hard for the children to really understand the pandemic,” York said. “But it’s even harder to understand around the holidays. They are still kids, and they want to have some sense of normalcy. And this program is one of those things that bring some sort of normalcy for a family.”

Visit: nfcchelp.org/santa-shop.

Sponsored Families

Families going through extreme financial strains can be eligible for a holiday sponsor. Those gifts are distributed in December, and families can register this month.

Volunteers should visit: nfcchelp.org/volunteer.

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