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How Dentonites can help community members in need this holiday season.

A Season of Giving

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Although all charitable causes in Denton need continual support from the community all year long, the need is even greater during the holiday season.

If you are looking for a way to make the holidays a little brighter for those in need in our area, here are a few programs you may want to consider helping out.

Denton County Friends of the Family Adopt A Family 2022

Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF) is a local nonprofit in Denton County that provides free services for individuals and their families who have been affected by domestic violence and/or sexual assault, explains Director of Marketing and Development Olivia Jane Barhorst. They offer a range of services, including an emergency shelter, counseling services, transitional housing, a 24-hour crisis line, and a battering intervention and prevention program.

Additionally, each year DCFOF holds an Adopt A Family program for their clients. “Instead of referring them out to another agency that does a holiday drive, we do it for our clients (because) we know their story (and) we know the struggle that they’re facing,” Barhorst says. “They don’t have to tell another agency or organization the traumatic situation that they’re going through just to get the services that they need.”

Once a donor signs up for the Adopt A Family program online, they are matched up with a family. DCFOF gives each donor information on what each child would like for the holidays. Donors are also asked to provide one full clothing outfit for each child in the family.

“A lot of our clients that we serve may have left an abusive situation or are working on transitioning out … maybe they’ve had to leave clothing behind,” Barhorst says. “So having a brand new outfit and some awesome toys or gifts can really make a major impact at the holiday season.”

DCFOF also collects non-perishable food items and food store gift cards to provide a holiday meal kit for each family. Barhorst says food donations, as well as monetary donations, are a great way for someone to be a part of the Adopt A Family program even if they are not able to adopt an entire family this year.

Additionally, Barhorst says they are in need of volunteers to help with sorting gifts and when families come to pick them up.

“This year has been a very tough year for Denton County in the domestic violence arena, simply because we’ve had an influx of intakes,” Barhorst explains. “We’ve had different challenges coming out of the pandemic. The economy and the housing crisis are affecting our clients even more simply because affordable housing is not easy. So this year, Adopt A Family is needed more than ever — support for those clients to be able to ensure that they have a wonderful holiday season is just crucial.”

Denton County Toy Store

The Denton County Toy Store has been serving the children of Denton County since 1969, according to Chairman Christine Cole. Run by Asbury United Methodist Church, the program currently focuses on providing gifts to children ages infant to 12 years old. Cole says the program provides holiday gifts to 500 to 600 children each year.

Cole says although they receive many of their toys through WFAA’s Santa’s Helpers, they are always in need of donations from the community.

“We will definitely accept money donations and we’ll do the shopping,” Cole says. “We also take (brand new) toy donations. My goal is to get two toys per child. And then we also give a game per family, we’ll do stuffed animals per family. It depends on the number of donations that we get each year and how many toys they get.”

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For those who wish to drop off donations, Cole says to contact Asbury United Methodist Church for more information. This year’s toy store where families can come to “shop” for gifts takes place December 17th.

And Cole says they are in need of volunteer help for the Denton County Toy Store. Volunteers are needed to help families fill out the registration form to qualify for the program, as well as when the toy store is open on December 17th.

“The day of the Toy Store when we distribute the toys … we assign (the families) an hour to come,” Cole explains. “they get assigned a shopper. And then they get to go around and pick and select toys that they want for the age of the child that they’re shopping for.”

Those interested in volunteering for the Denton County Toy Store are urged to contact Cole through the program’s Facebook page.

“We have a motto — working together to assist families so all children of Denton County can experience the joy and magic of Christmas,” Cole says. “So that’s our goal and to help families in need. We want to make sure that we’re there and help people out.

Toys for Tots Aubrey

Toys for Tots Aubrey — which serves Denton, Cooke, Wise, Montague, and Wichita Counties — is part of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program, explains Linda Davis, coordinator for Toys for Tots Aubrey.

Through this local campaign, Davis says they collect new unwrapped toys and gifts for children ages infant to 18. In 2021, Toys for Tots Aubrey distributed over 147,000 toys to local children in need. “With the way the economy is right now, we’ll probably be at about that same number (this year),” Davis adds.

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Davis says families who qualify for the program are able to “shop” at a special store they set up. “The parents come in and shop for their children — they’re allowed to get three toys, a stocking stuffer, and a book (per child),” she explains. “That’s the way the foundation set that up so that everybody has a chance to have a little bit of everything that we offer.”

Toys are collected through various events and drop-off sites within the five counties the program serves. Community members can search for drop-off locations by zip code. Additionally, Davis says certain businesses, such as Lava Cantina in The Colony and American Eagle Harley-Davidson in Corinth always accept toys for the program.

Additionally, people can make monetary donations to Toys for Tots Aubrey online.

Davis says they accept toy and gift donations this year until December 16th. For more information and opportunities to donate, follow Toys for Tots Aubrey on Facebook.

“I’m not the richest woman on Earth, but when you buy a toy and you put it in that box, and you know that child’s going to wake up Christmas morning and what kind of feeling they’re going to have, it’s an overwhelming feeling — you can’t describe it,” Davis adds.

Community Clothes Closet

As the weather gets colder, warm clothing like pants, sweaters, sweatshirts, and coats are needed by everyone in the Denton area. Helping to make sure everyone has the clothes they need all year round is the Community Clothes Closet in Justin which serves over 64 different communities, including Denton County, according to Executive Coordinator Gwen St. Clair.

“Our mission is to serve the communities to make sure families have clothing to wear for whatever they need, whether it’s pleasure, work, or just around the house,” she explains. “It’s a very wide range of reasons that people want or can use our services. Our families (are) so varied and they come from all different walks of life and need us at different times.  It does not matter where they live, where they come from, or what their need is.”

Over the past 12 months, the Community Clothes Closet served 683 families and distributed over 69,000 items to families from January to September 2022.

The Community Clothes Closet accepts donations of all clothing, as well as accessories. St. Clair says people can drop their donations off in their “Big Blue Box” donation box on their property at  117 W 6th Street in Justin. And keep an eye on their Facebook page for specific clothing items they may be in need of.

The clothing and accessories are used to stock the Community Clothes Closet, which those in need can make an appointment to “shop” for free. “We have appointments anywhere from six to eight times a month and we can serve up to about 40 families per time,” St. Clair says.

In addition to clothes, the Closet also accepts donations of books for their large bookcase where families can take books for free. And they also accept donations of used toys to distribute to families who come to the Closet.

And if you’re looking for a place to do some holiday shopping, the Closet runs the Store at CCC. “We have a lot of merchants and other organizations that will give us new clothing with tags, and we do sell those through our little Store at CCC through Facebook live sales,” St. Clair explains. “It’s one of our funding projects — we are not associated with any entity that contributes to us financially, so we depend completely on our communities for the clothing and for any financial donations that we can have to make our business run.”

Speaking of which, the Community Clothes Closet also accepts monetary donations from the community.

Lovepacs Denton

According to Nicol Fuller, chapter co-lead of Lovepacs Denton, the nonprofit organization provides food for food-insecure students at Denton ISD during long weekends and holiday breaks.

“So anytime that they have a Friday or a Monday off or any break, we provide two meals and a snack,” she explains. “We don’t qualify the students that we serve. We simply ask the counselors at their school how many students need bags or boxes of food, and we deliver it to the schools and they give it to the students.”

The food provided to students comes through donations made by community members, says Becca Burris, also a chapter co-lead for Lovepacs Denton. “We have drop boxes all over town where people can at any point leave food donations from our total list, or whatever we might be highlighting that week as our biggest name,” she says. “We get monetary donations — we have people who donate monthly and we have people who donate here and there when they can. And then we also have a lot of food supplied through the North Texas Food Bank and our partnership with them.”

Fuller says they definitely have an increased need for food donations during the holiday season because the schools have a week-long Thanksgiving break and a two-week-long Christmas break. “Because we need so much food in such a short amount of time, we really do depend on the community to help us gather it,” she adds. “So things like ramen and granola bars (are really needed).”

Community members can also keep an eye on Lovepacs Denton’s Facebook page for current food donation needs and volunteer opportunities.

Burris also says community members can help out by adopting a box during the holiday season. Families pick up a box at one of the listed locations, fill it with items specified on the included list, and return the box to the pantry for distribution.

“(Remember) there are families just like yours that are struggling,” Burris says. “As prices increase on everything top to bottom, it’s really helpful to these families, to these parents, to be able to have enough food in their pantry to feed their kids.”

Another way to help out is during the Holiday Snack Pack on Thursday, December 1st at Quakertown Park. “We also provide snacks throughout the year for nurses, counselors, and anyone to be able to give out to students who come to school who are hungry,” Burris says.

Community members are invited to bring individually packaged snacks from the list provided on the Facebook event. Then everyone meets at the park and the snacks are packaged into baggies to give to schools as they need them. “It’s a really easy, super-fast way for people to help out,” Burris adds.

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