It’s not even Halloween, but Christmas is already in the air.
The Tribune-Democrat Santa Fund, an annual project that provides holiday gifts for local children, began Sept. 29 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 sixth 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, expects the need to be just as great this year.
“I think Johnstown is holding its own and that’s nice to see, but there is still a segment of the population who are working through things, so unfortunately the need isn’t going away,” he said.
In 2011, individuals, organizations and companies contributed close to $21,000 toward the fund. Proceeds from the Santa Fund Soccer Classic extended that amount to $27,500.
“Thanks to the donors, because these folks support us and without them we wouldn’t be able to do this, at least not to this scale,” Kane said.
“This has moved beyond what we imagined, and the way it continues to grow each year is a testament to the community’s support.”
Once again, Boscov’s department store in The Galleria will be the provider of the gifts.
Workers match by age and gender children nominated for the program 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 provides volunteers in various areas.
“There are literally hundreds of people involved with this; it’s a party of hundreds,” Kane said.
Some key dates for the 2012 Santa Fund include:
• Nov. 16, deadline for children to be nominated.
• Nov. 30, deadline for monetary donations.
• Dec. 12, date of distribution of gifts to families.
Eric Knopsnyder, editor of The Tribune-Democrat, said the paper is excited to be a part of the project.
“Personally, I’m thrilled to get more hands-on experience with it after working with the Santa Fund Soccer Classic last year and seeing all of the good that comes out of it,” he said. “I encourage anyone with the means to do so to contribute to this worthy cause.”
Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.
Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.