Close to 500 Bucks County residents and area businesses contributed more than $33,000 to help fund the United of Bucks County’s Holiday Gift Card Drive this year.
The annual effort collected enough to fulfill gift cards for more than 1,100 Bucks County older kids and teens who otherwise may not have received anything this holiday season.
Danielle Bush, director of community and volunteer engagement at the United Way of Bucks County, said she was thrilled with the response to the drive and hoped some final donations over the next few days would help fulfill some last-minute requests that were received. (Last-minute donations can be made online)
Bush explained during the past weeks that the older kids and served by the Holiday Gift Card Drive come from families who are struggling to make ends meet. They oftentimes have siblings who receive gifts through toy drives, but they have aged out of those programs and may get nothing. For those older kids and teens, receiving $35 worth of gift cards can be meaningful and allow them the ability to choose what they buy – whether a meal, clothes, games, or something else.
Starting on Monday, distribution of the gift cards will begin with the 1,100 provided mainly to partners who will get the gifts to the older kids and teens. Some will go to schools, social workers, partner agencies, like the Ann Silverman Health Clinic that provides services for uninsured low-income adults and children residing across the county, and also to individual families who have requested some help this year, said Marissa Christie, president and CEO of the United Way of Bucks County.
Both Bush and Christie explained that there are a variety of reasons families seek help through the program, including deaths of parents, serious injuries or illnesses that parents are dealing with, grandparents or siblings who have custody of teens, and job loss. This year, one case deals with a grandmother in their 80s who is struggling on a fixed income and looking to provide a good holiday for their teenage grandchild who she has custody of.
LevittownNow.com and NewtownPANow.com readers are key in keeping the program active and making the holiday season brighter for more than 1,000 older kids and teens.
The drive this year, according to Christie, saw individual donations from $5 to more than $1,000, including $1,400 raised by the Delancey Court neighborhood in Newtown Township.
Among the stories that stand out, a donor, who wanted to only be known as “Mrs. Claus,” offered to match a $750 donation if someone else would step up. Within a sort time of the news being posted on social media, a generous Levittown-area resident, who wanted to be known as “Secret Santa,” put forward the $750 match for Mrs. Claus. Another story is of a teen who worked to collect $700 in donations from friends, family, and businesses.
Christie said donors are very committed to the program and also check back throughout the weeks to see where donations stand.
Last Friday morning, staff members from Janssen, an arm of pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson, worked to create gift card packages for the 1,100 older kids and teens on the list.
“This is great. We are getting more efficient at doing this every year,” Paul Mullen, who was leading the team of volunteers from Janssen, said.
Staff from Cummins Sales and Service in Bristol Township pulled together to create 1,100 bags of candy and made holiday cards for the recipients of the program.
Over the years, the program has grown from just a few hundred older kids and teens to now more than 1,100.
Bush said that she is thankful for the support.