The calendar says it’s October, but it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
The Tribune-Democrat Santa Fund, an annual project that provides holiday gifts for local children, begins today, and application forms can be found in the pages of the newspaper.
Each year, the Santa Fund helps children whose families may be facing financial hardship.
Now in its seventh year, the Santa Fund is operated by the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, which receives donations and manages the fund.
Last year, the fund served more than 1,000 local youngsters.
Mike Kane, executive director of the Community Foundation, believes the need continues to grow year after year.
“It’s not just in the city but the region as a whole,” he said.
“This (Santa Fund) is something people can do to help that’s just nice.”
In 2012, more than $35,000 was collected through donations and the Santa Fund Soccer Classic, which featured all-star players from local high schools.
“The community has really embraced this, especially the wonderful donors, and we’ll get donations in here ranging from $1 to $1,000 checks,” Kane said.
“Every penny that comes in goes toward buying the toys.”
Once again, Boscov’s department store in The Galleria will be the provider of the gifts.
Workers match children by age and gender with toys from the retailer’s merchandise.
Other partners in the program include:
• Alternative Community Action Program, which coordinates with other area programs to reach out to local families, then compiles a list of children who will receive gifts.
• Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania, which hosts and coordinates bagging, tagging and distribution of gifts from its building in downtown Johnstown.
• AmeriCorps and the United Way, which provide volunteers in various areas.
“People have stepped up their efforts in pulling this off and it’s a wonderful expression of a community interested in supporting those in need,” Kane said.
No submissions will be accepted after Nov. 27.
Gifts will be distributed to families in mid-December.
Eric Knopsnyder, editor of The Tribune-Democrat, said the Santa Fund has come to be an important part of the holiday season in the region and the paper is excited to be able to help make Christmas a little bit brighter for those in need.
“We ask that those who can afford to make a donation, no matter how big or small, remember those less fortunate,” he said.
Kelly Urban is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/KellyUrban25.