With Christmas Day rapidly approaching, local holiday charities are scrambling to keep pace with requests for their services. And the recent wave of arctic temperatures has strained the coffers of some.
The cold has affected the Salvation Army's bellringer fund-raising. And Warm Hearts of Douglas County organizers are concerned that the recent cold snap will quickly deplete the money that they've raised so far, because applicants' fuel bills will be so high.
And for the second year in a row, an anonymous donation to the Lawrence Holiday Bureau has helped ensure that all 973 applicants for a Christmas basket will receive something.
As of Monday afternoon, 543 of the 973 applicants to the Holiday Bureau had been adopted by local people. But, Sherri Cannon, director of Ballard Center, one of the Holiday Bureau agencies, said she believes that all of the applicants will receive something because the agencies received an anonymous $5,000 donation as well as several other smaller cash donations.
"WE'RE ABLE to provide gift certificates for the families that we just haven't been able to shop for," she said.
Cannon said the agencies are still welcoming any help that people want to provide. People who want to help, even by just donating an item or two, should call one of the agencies participating in the Holiday Bureau, which are Ballard Center, the Salvation Army, Penn House, Douglas County Senior Services and the Lawrence Indian Center.
People can help with the Holiday Bureau in a variety of ways, but, usually, local families or groups agree to "adopt" a needy family. The helping group will purchase enough food for the family to eat on Christmas Day, one new gift for each member of the family and one new toy for each child.
The names of the families who apply for assistance are kept confidential. The helping groups will receive only the ages, sizes and some clothing or toy suggestions.
WARREN RHODES, Warm Hearts treasurer, said the fund drive has raised about $31,246 of its $65,000 goal.
"That will go in a month if this cold keeps up," he said.
Warm Hearts assistance goes to needy families who have made attempts to keep up with their fuel bills but are unable to pay them. Families that need help may begin applying for Warm Hearts assistance Jan. 2 at local agencies that serve low-income residents.
Contributions can be sent to Warm Hearts, P.O. Box 1600, Lawrence, 66044.
The cold has somewhat affected the Salvation Army's bellringing drive, said Richard McCart, bellringing coordinator.
Last year, the bellringers raised about $30,000 and as of Monday they've raised $26,024.35, he said. The bellringers will be out until Dec. 31, said McCart, so there's still a chance they'll raise as much as last year.
"The cold has made people not want to ring, and I don't blame them," he said.