Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Capt. Kathy Nichols said she already knew what to expect this Christmas by the last week of August.
By the second day of school, Id already heard from 10 elementary school counselors, asking if we could help families at their schools for Christmas, Nichols says.
She says CMPDs Explorers Christmas Project is facing greater demand than ever this holiday season as it tries to provide food and gifts for 650 needy families in Charlotte.
A joint effort by police, the Charlotte Fire Department and the U.S. Marines, the project, now in its 39th year, is being taxed by residual effects of the recession.
We had to cut off the number of families we could help back in November, Nichols says. We couldnt take on any more.
And the deadline is approaching. She says money and gifts are needed by next Monday.
Armed with donations from Charlotte-area corporations and civic organizations, plus plenty of help from the general public, the Explorers Project technically handled by CMPDs Explorer troop plans to deliver the food and gifts Dec. 21. But there still are plenty of needs.
We are looking for toys and other gifts for children of all ages, Nichols says. Typically, we always have the greatest need for children ages 9 to 14. But some of what were providing are not luxuries theyre basic day-to-day necessities.
She said one mother asked if the project could provide toothbrushes for her children.
Financial donations also are needed, Nichols says. The money will be used to buy food, which Nichols says is especially important during the holidays.
Many of these families rely on the free- and reduced-priced breakfasts and lunches that children receive while school is in session, she says. When school is out, like during the holidays, families are in great need.
Each of the recipient families will receive between 50 and 60 pounds of food.
Police, firefighters, Explorers, Marine Corps members, and volunteers from area businesses and organizations have been working for weeks in a warehouse to assemble bicycles and other toys, and to organize boxes of food. The police officers and firefighters involved in the effort turn in thousands of hours of volunteer time to make it work.
The Marines support the effort through their Toys for Tots program.
Nichols says it will take about 400 volunteers to distribute the food and gifts. We do it on a single day, Dec. 21 this year, she says. Its a major effort, but its a labor of love.
Lyttle: (704) 358-6107
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