Hundreds of Westerville students and families could have a better holiday season thanks to the Westerville Caring & Sharing Holiday Project.

Barbara McCoy, volunteer and former organization president, said this year marks 31 years of service to the community.

"Our top priority is to make sure all are remembered during this special time of year," she said.

About 600 Westerville students and their families were served during last year's Holiday Project.

"Each year, we expect more families requesting assistance for various reasons," McCoy said.

She said the organization depends heavily on the generosity of community members to ensure the project's success.

"As an all-volunteer group, we work very hard to give back to the community," said Mary Pugh, vice president of Caring & Sharing. "We want the children to start school with all of their needed supplies and we want them to experience a happy family holiday."

Pugh said the organization knows that gifts are important but so is food.

The nonprofit also sponsors a holiday food drive, according to McCoy.

"All families receive boxes of food to help get them through the holidays when their children are out of school and not receiving their free or reduced-price lunches," she said.

When students are on a holiday break, Pugh said, they are missing the breakfasts and lunches they would receive at school, so along with the gifts, Caring & Sharing wants to provide them with a large food box.

"This can only happen with the support of the community," she said.

McCoy said toys and other donations will be accepted until Dec. 14 at the Westerville Community Center, 350 N. Cleveland Ave.; Edward Jones, 110 Polaris Parkway, Suite 230; Bru Burger Bar, 691 N. Cleveland Ave.; United Midwest Savings Bank, 780 S. State St.; Hand & Stone Massage & Facial, 1190 Polaris Parkway; and Harry Buffalo, 6150 Sunbury Road.

Monetary donations are welcome any time.

She said Dec. 15 will be the distribution day for items at a site to be determined.

Pugh said all Holiday Project recipients remain anonymous.

McCoy, however, shared some notes of appreciation from past recipients.

"I will never forget my children's eyes when they came downstairs and saw all of their amazing gifts," one resident wrote.

Another wrote, "Asking for help was very hard for me. Thank you for treating me with dignity and respect."

Westerville Caring & Sharing is an all-volunteer organization with 100% of monetary donations going to local families.

The group can be reached at 614-470-4320; westervillecaringsharing@gmail.com; or followed on Facebook at facebook.com/westervillecaringsharing.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla