A year ago, several agencies in Schoharie County organized a program to help struggling parents get toys for their children in time for Christmas, and 100 families signed up for assistance.
The group put out a call again this year but learned Friday — the final day for families to sign up — that it has a problem.
More than twice as many families, 210, filled out an application for help this year, and the amount of assistance available could fall short of stuffing everybody’s stocking.
“I’m overwhelmed by the need. I’m overwhelmed by what people asked for. Our resources don’t measure up,” said Colleen Mahar, director of agency services at the Schoharie County Child Development Council.
With government funding for human service agencies dwindling, Mahar said several agencies joined with churches in 2012 to raise money for a toy program operated in the past by the Schoharie County Community Action Program.
Once that effort ended, Catholic Charities, Schoharie County Head Start, Community Maternity Services, the Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce and flood-recovery organization Schoharie Area Long Term all gathered to promote the effort, the “Community Wide Christmas Collaboration.”
Though two years have passed since tropical storms Irene and Lee devastated the Schoharie Valley, many parents affected by the floods will have trouble providing a normal Christmas morning, according to SALT director Sarah Goodrich.
“Part of the challenge is some of the organizations locally that used to do this as part of their routine programming are unable to do this due to funding,” she said.
Heating costs and other challenges brought on by cold weather add to the difficulty, she said, but she’s unsure why there’s been a sudden spike in need from last year to this year.
Goodrich said some flood victims may not have stepped up for help last year after already receiving assistance in their plight after the flood.
Many seeking some help were flood victims, but not all, Goodrich said.
Mahar said the applications show that families in tough financial shape aren’t that way for lack of trying.
“Most of the families have someone working. It’s just it’s not enough. Most families are in need of toys of course, but probably even more than toys, folks are asking for assistance with food this year,” she said.
The 210 families in need this Christmas include 455 children.
“The challenge for us right now is distribution starts [today], so we don’t have a lot of time to gather more toys or collect more donations for the purchase of toys. So we’re in a crunch. We’re in a hustle time right now,” Mahar said.