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Toy donations needed to help families celebrate Christmas

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

The Sharpsburg Family Worship Center needs help to provide families with a way to give their children a good Christmas.

Church officials are accepting donations for its “Give A Gift” program through the Network of Hope. Families who are preregistered can “shop” for free toys during the program.

Registration for this year's program is closed and the response has been bigger than ever before, Jamie Horne, children's ministry and outreach director for the church, said. A total of 380 children will benefit from this year's program.

“We have more kids than we've ever had before sign up,” Horne said.

Drop-off boxes are located at each of the schools in the Fox Chapel Area School District. The deadline for donations is Sunday, Dec. 16. Donations also can be delivered to the church in Sharpsburg on Saturday and Sunday.

Among the items needed are teen items for boys and girls and elementary- school-age boys and girls items. No stuffed animals are accepted and only new items can be donated, Horne said.

Families who attend the Give A Gift shop must live in the 15215 ZIP code. The number of children has gone up steadily in the nearly 10 years the program has operated. Horne said she doesn't want the increase in people to mean a decrease in gifts given.

“I wouldn't feel like I was doing the right thing to provide,” Horne said.

Horne said the families who use the program are screened to prevent anyone from taking advantage of it. Most of the families already get assistance to provide food.

“They can provide a Christmas dinner but they can't get gifts for their kids,” Horne said.

When the shop opens next week, 10 families will be let in every 15 minutes to pick out gifts. Horne said the program is needed in the community.

“They really rely on us, especially some of the bigger families,” Horne said.

The response from the families that benefit can be powerful.

“Some of them leave in tears crying and thanking us for helping them,” Horne said.

Tom McGee is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 1513 or tmcgee@tribweb.com.

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