United Way offering gifts to families in need in Chattanooga area

United Way offering gifts to families in need in Chattanooga area

December 21st, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

Michael Bingham, Deni Albrecht and Catherine Albrecht, from left, wrap presents at the Giving Tree located inside the Gifts in Kind Warehouse on Monday. The Giving Tree allows families to sign up for time slots and browse presents organized by age and gender. After presents are chosen volunteers wrap gifts before they are taken home for children to enjoy on Christmas.

Photo by Alex Washburn /Times Free Press.

FOR HELP

Parents and guardians who still don't have gifts for Christmas and haven't been helped by other agencies should call 211.

Volunteers Tabitha Waddle and Athena Walker (left to right) wrap presents at the Giving Tree located inside the Gifts in Kind Warehouse on Monday. The Giving Tree allows families to sign up for time slots and browse presents organized by age and gender. After presents are chosen volunteers wrap gifts before they are taken home for children to enjoy on Christmas.

Volunteers Tabitha Waddle and Athena Walker (left to...

Photo by Alex Washburn /Times Free Press.

Carolyn Sullivan, Dorine Westlake and Camlle Elser (left to right) pick out presents for five children at the Giving Tree located inside the Gifts in Kind Warehouse on Monday. The Giving Tree allows families to sign up for time slots and browse presents organized by age and gender. After presents are chosen volunteers wrap gifts before they are taken home for children to enjoy on Christmas.

Carolyn Sullivan, Dorine Westlake and Camlle Elser (left...

Photo by Alex Washburn /Times Free Press.

Wendy Hymes and Mylene Flippe (left to right) chat with each other about their children and grandchildren as they wait for their rides at the Giving Tree located inside the Gifts in Kind Warehouse on Monday.The Giving Tree allows families to sign up for time slots and browse presents organized by age and gender. After presents are chosen volunteers wrap gifts before they are taken home for children to enjoy on Christmas.

Wendy Hymes and Mylene Flippe (left to right)...

Photo by Alex Washburn /Times Free Press.

White lights twinkle over Santa Claus wrapping paper while Christmas carols play on the radio, setting the holiday atmosphere for United Way's Giving Tree.

The tree is an effort to help families who haven't had assistance from any agencies, but still need help providing gifts for Christmas.

"Everybody should be happy at Christmas," said 16-year-old Fleming Farrow, a Girls Preparatory School student volunteering at the event.

United Way officials started distributing gifts on Monday and expect to end giving today. Parents who still need help may call 211, said Wendy Brooks, United Way's volunteer director.

"As long as we have something to give, we will try to make sure that that person has an opportunity to get," said Brooks.

One hundred families, more than ever before, registered to receive gifts from the Giving Tree this year. That's about 20 more families than in 2010, said Kelley Nave, United Way's public relations director.

In 2007, the number of families signing up for last-minute help was less than 40, Nave recalled.

The problem this year is the economy, said Diane Collins Jarvis, United Way's information and referral specialist.

Several people who signed up were laid off within the last two weeks before Christmas, she said. Others were laid off earlier this year and didn't call charity organizations earlier because they thought they were going to get called back to work, she said.

"A lot of them have never asked for help," said Jarvis. "They're asking now because they don't want to disappoint their children."

Bridgette Bussey, a 30-year-old single mother of five who is also raising her nephew, said she started telling her family that Christmas may be "low" this year, trying to prepare them for not having much on Christmas Day.

Then she visited the Giving Tree on Monday.

Hundreds of items donated by private individuals, Toys for Tots and corporations were grouped according to age range and gender and spread out on tables. Bussey and other parents were allowed to pick two gifts for each child.

It was Bussey's first time using the service and she selected two iPods, Beyonce Heat perfume, school supplies, headphones and a ball, among other gifts.

"This makes a big difference," she said. "This is a blessing."

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