Care Train collections on track so far in 2012
According to new Care Train Executive Directo Linda Fisher, "The Care Train is definitely rolling."
The Care Train is a non-profit organization that works to make sure families who are unable to buy gifts and dinners at Christmas receive help.
While it is only September, Fisher said auction committee meetings have started and forms are out all over town for families to register for help.
Care Train began 25 years ago when local Burger King owner Dave Laslow placed a box in a corner of his restaurant and started collecting toys.
Barrels and boxes can still be found all over Union County in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
The group also collects items for an auction. All the money from the auction, along with other donations, go toward food vouchers from Kroger's.
Fisher stressed that people who need help must get the completed paperwork to Union County Job and Family Services in order to be considered for the program.
Jim Cesa, Union County Care Train Distribution Chair, said after 11 years with the organization, he has seen it grow by leaps and bounds.
"The auction itself has grown from doing $18,000 to $20,000 a year to, the last several years, doing $160,000," he said. "That's auction items, donations and sponsorships. We used to serve 400-500 kids back about 10 years ago and now we serve between 1,000 to 1,200.
"Our senior population has grown from being a minor portion of what we do to a third of what we do," he said.
"We touch about 5 percent of the population in this county,"Cesa added. "Overall, we're close to 2,500 people total. It's a pretty significant number when you consider the total population of the county has 8 percent under the poverty guideline."
Applications can be found at the Union County Job and Family Services office, Hope Center and, new this year, at elementary school guidance counselors' offices.
Senior applicants are handled by Union County Senior Services.
There are eligibility guidelines so each application is approved by UCJFS
Cesa said so far, the Care Train has commitments from a number of adopters, people who will buy gifts for registered families in need.
"Right now, we're ahead of the game as far as adopter," he said. "We're close to 425 adopters."
But he said organizers are always looking for more in order to serve all the families that need help.
The organization is also hoping to win a Chase Bank contest which could secure a portion of a $5-million grant that will go to charities across the country with the most votes. Voting ends Sept. 19.
To cast a vote, go to: facebook.com/ChaseCommunityGiving.
Companies wishing to donate items to the Care Train auction should email email@example.com or call (614) 563-3174.