Christmas Bureau to help estimated 1,500 families

The Catawba County Christmas Bureau will help thousands of area children have presents this year.

The Bureau brings together all kinds of organizations each year in an effort to provide toys, clothes and bicycles to needy families. This year, despite down donation levels, Bureau officials anticipate helping about 1,500 families.

“We have a very generous community, but it’s unfortunate it’s not quite always enough,” Salvation Army Capt. Christine Harris said Monday.

The Salvation Army helps organize the giveaway event that started Monday and continues today. They are one of more than 30 area organizations who donate or give volunteers to the charity.

Some of the other organizations include Catawba County Department of Social Services (DSS), Catawba County Schools, Volunteer Center, Eastern Catawba County Christian Ministry, Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry, Hickory Fire Department, The Salvation Army and Catawba County United Way, among others.

Donations from The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree are also used as presents at the Bureau. Harris said money from the Salvation Army’s “Red Kettle” campaign is also used to buy needed items for the charity.

Harris said donation levels are down 15-20 percent from last year.

Tables, coat racks and bike alleys were still packed Monday with donations ready for qualifying families.

The Bureau’s giveaway event is held at the American Legion Fairgrounds in Hickory, where hundreds lined up on Monday to “shop” for their families.

Not just anyone can participate in the Bureau’s charity.

People apply or are referred to the Bureau by DSS and other charitable organizations.

Applications are then reviewed by a committee that evaluates who is most in need, Harris said.

After toys, clothes and other donations are set up at the Christmas Bureau, participants visit and collect items for their families.

Participants also have a chance to receive free bicycles at the event.

The Hickory Fire Department has given away hundreds of bicycles over the years through live drawings at the Bureau. The “Bikes for Tykes” program purchases bicycles ahead of time and the bikes are donated to winning families who have children ages 12 and younger.

This year, Steve White Motors sponsored a campaign that will provide 120 bikes for teenagers ages 13-16. The “Bikes for Teens” program raised $11,000 this year.

“This year we’ve been able to give new bicycles to teens as well because Steve White took it on as a project,” said Rose Arant, coordinator of the Bureau’s teen program that operates under the umbrella of the Catawba County United Way.

Arant said the program for teens has “really grown” since it started about five years ago.

“It’s the teens at home looking after the children, and they were getting used clothing and other items,” Arant said. “Now, we’re able to buy newer merchandise through the support of JC Penney.”

The Christmas Bureau is still accepting donations for other programs throughout the Christmas season.

“If someone still brings donations when we’re all done, I put them under lock and key and use it next year,” she said.

The Catawba County Christmas Bureau continues today at the American Legion Fairgrounds in Hickory from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m.

Participating agencies
The Salvation Army, Catawba County United Way, Catawba County Schools, Volunteer Center, Catawba County DSS, Eastern Catawba County Christian Ministry, Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry, Hickory Fire Department, Hickory Public Schools, local foundations, Newton-Conover City Schools, WHKY Radio and WHKY TV, Toys for Tots, Hickory Police Department, Newton and other fire departments, churches and civic clubs.