For more than four decades, volunteers with Respond Now have been helping make the season bright for those who otherwise wouldn’t have much to celebrate.
This year, they expect nearly 1,000 children to receive gifts because of the organization’s annual Christmas opportunity.
“We want everyone to have a wonderful Christmas. We know some people need an extra hand at this time of year. We hope we have helped our families, especially the children, have a merrier Christmas,” said Sue Perkins of Flossmoor who serves on the board of directors of Respond Now, the helping agency based in Chicago Heights. “Because of our generous donors and volunteers, we provided gifts for over 900 children last Christmas. We anticipate the need to be equally as great or greater this year,” she said.
Families fill out a form with the sex and age of their children ages newborn through 14, and are given a day and time to come to Living Springs Community Church in Glenwood.
“On the first day, this year it is Dec. 16, volunteers organize and set up the tables of donated toys, games, books, etc.,” Perkins explained.
Over the following two days, the client comes at the assigned time, and “one of our many volunteers will chat with the parent to learn interests and wishes of their children. The volunteer will then ‘shop’ for items for each child,” she said.
After the gifts have been selected and shown to the parent, they will receive their food basket.
Volunteers will accept donations through Dec. 13 at the Respond Now office at 1439 Emerald Ave., Chicago Heights. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Toys may also be dropped off between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 16, at Living Springs Community Church, 19051 Halsted St. in Glenwood.
Donations can be made online at respondnow.org or mailed to Respond Now at P.O. Box 215, Chicago Heights, Illinois 60412.
This year Respond Now is marking its 50th anniversary of helping persons in need in 22 communities in the South Suburbs. Many are the working poor or are unemployed, suffer food insecurity and in some cases have lost their homes through foreclosure.
Respond Now sponsors a food pantry, a clothes closet, financial assistance for medicines, rent and other essentials. Its staff helps connect those in need with services offered by government agencies and non-profits.
For information on how to help Respond Now with its volunteer work, contact staff at 708-755-4357.
[This story has been updated.]