Organizers for three local projects are gearing up to help provide holiday cheer to Grove City and southwest Franklin County residents in need.
Registration for the Southwest Christian Ministerial Association's White Christmas holiday food program and Jackson Township's Firefighters for Kids toy drive will take place Monday, Nov. 27, through Dec. 1.
Families may register for both programs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jackson Township Fire Station 202, 3650 Hoover Road in Grove City. The registration hours will be extended to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29.
The third effort will be the Grove City Division of Police third annual Cram the Cruiser toy drive Dec. 3.
The White Christmas program is open to residents in the 43123, 43126 and 43146 ZIP codes with a financial need.
"The idea behind our program is to help make sure families in our community don't have to worry about having food and can concentrate on celebrating Christmas with their loved ones," said Patrick Fahy, White Christmas coordinator.
Over the next three weeks, students at 19 area schools will collect nonperishable food items, he said.
"What we're trying to do with the school food drives is to help students at all age levels to understand it's important to give back to your community, not just at Christmastime, but any time," Fahy said.
"We always get a great response from the students," he said.
Last year, the area's 19 schools donated more than 38,000 food items, he said.
Donated items are put into food boxes that provide enough food for a week for families, Fahy said.
A typical food box will contain more than 40 items, including canned vegetables and fruit, pasta, spaghetti sauce, cereals, dessert items, packaged food, canned meat or stew, tuna, soup and tomato paste, he said.
"We use financial donations we receive to purchase and add perishable food items like whole fryers (chicken), a quarter ham, potatoes, fruit, a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs and butter that we add to the boxes," Fahy said.
Volunteers will collect the donated food from each school on Dec. 19 and 20. The sorting of food items will take place beginning at 6 p.m. Dec. 20 in the Our Lady of Perpetual Help School cafeteria, 3750 Broadway. The packing of boxes takes place at 6 p.m. Dec. 21 in the cafeteria.
Distribution of the food will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 22 behind Our Lady of Perpetual Help School.
"Last year, we had more than 350 volunteers take part in at least one of our activities," Fahy said. "A lot of parents bring their children to volunteer. With all of the schools and families involved, it truly makes this a community effort."
Any leftover food will be donated to the Grove City Food Pantry on Dec. 23, he said.
The White Christmas program assisted 158 families in 2016, Fahy said.
At registration, participating families must provide valid photo identification, proof of current residency, phone number, number and ages of persons living at their address, reason for their request and the name of the church, if referred, he said.
The Firefighters for Kids program is operated by Jackson Township Professional Firefighters Local 2672, said Greg Rudduck, a firefighter-paramedic who also serves as toy drive coordinator.
"Last year we provided toys to about 125 families with about 350 kids," he said.
Toys are distributed to needy families who live in Jackson Township, Grove City and Urbancrest, Rudduck said.
Donations of new toys, still in their packaging, can be dropped off until Dec. 15 at any Jackson Township fire station, he said.
"We're looking for toys for ages zero to 12, but we especially need toys for older children," Rudduck said. "It seems like it's easy to get donations of toys for younger kids, but we don't get as many that are suitable for the 10 to 12 age group."
The Cram the Cruiser toy drive benefits children who are under the care of Franklin County Children Services.
The event will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 3 at Grove City United Methodist Church, 2684 Columbus St.
Residents are invited to drop off new, unwrapped toys or bring financial donations to support the program. Santa will be at the event to visit and pose for pictures with youngsters. Festive refreshments also will be offered.
Anyone unable to attend the event can drop off toys at Grove City Hall, 4035 Broadway; the parks and recreation office, 3226 Kingston Ave.; Evans Center, 4330 Dudley Ave.; or at the city's safety complex, 3360 Park St.