NORTH PORT — Food, fellowship and toys are what holidays should be about. But it’s not always that way. There are seniors on fixed incomes and sometimes alone, kids with little hope that Santa will visit.

To meet the demand, businesses, nonprofits and individuals are stepping up to provide a meal and a Christmas present as the holidays arrive.

Home for the Holidays

North Port’s Home for the Holidays program connects income-eligible locals with sponsors such as the chamber of commerce, churches, community groups, the city’s Social Services Division and others such as you.

The city’s Adopt-n-Shop program, for instance, collects new donated toys, which get distributed to children on a list of 600. It’s part of the 12 Days of Giving program to collect unwrapped toys, nonperishable food and toiletries going to locals. Other prescreened kids not chosen for the Adopt-n-Shop program will receive a toy, as well. Collection runs through Dec. 13, with dropoff sites in the city.

Six-hundred children on Santa’s list is a big jump just in the last year, said Brittany Rainey with the city’s Social Services Division, estimating the number has doubled. The agency also helps with utility and emergency rent.

As the city grows, so does its needs, Rainey said.

Donated toys go to parents enrolled in the Adopt-n-Shop program, then to their kids at Christmas. Times, details and schedules are listed at the city’s website and social media postings.

Senior Giving Tree

There’s also a program for the plus-60 crowd. The Senior Giving Tree provides a holiday lunch and other things. North Port’s Chamber of Commerce is also adopting kids for the holidays, sending out word to its members about the opportunity to help 100 children. And city elves will collect nonperishables and toys during the Poinsettia Festival and Parade on Dec. 7. Those items will help fill the need of low- to moderate-income families in North Port, Rainey said.

“You enjoy being being able to make a difference,” Rainey said.

The holidays, she added, “are the best time of the year.”

Families in all holiday programs are screened for income eligibility. Depending on donations, children in the program get up to three new toys from Santa.

How to get involved

Unwrapped toys, nonperishable foods and toiletries for newborns to 14-year-olds can be delivered during working hours at city hall, the Morgan Family Community Center, George Mullen Activity Center, Fire Rescue Station 81, the Public Works Administration Building and the Family Service Center.

Other details about the parade, the Senior Giving Tree, volunteering, donating and locations can be found at www.cityofnorthport.com/homefortheholidays, 941-429-7188.

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