If Santa Claus could stuff two bunk beds down Alisha Plas' chimney, her four special needs children would no longer need to rotate on and off one twin size bed.
The family was in better shape financially last year, but they hit hard times when the 28-year-old mother lost her job. So, instead of bicycles and Barbie dolls for the children, this Christmas Plas will be thinking of their basic needs.
That's where groups like the Salvation Army come in. While the family manages to pay the bills with Plas' husband's shipyard income, it must rely on charitable organizations to help with other shortcomings.
"They are doing what they can," Plas said of assistance the family has received.
Plas' story is a reflection of many families on the Peninsula, with Christmastime goodies like teddy bears and candy canes taking a back seat to staples like soap, diapers and food. Some Peninsula charities say they are changing priorities to address basic needs of struggling families, but fewer donations and increasing demand put nonprofit groups in a tough position.
"The economy was so bad a lot groups are forced to focus on essentials," said Sid Dixon, treasurer of The Samaritan Group of Gloucester.
To combat the decrease in donations, officials with several charities depend on major sponsors like the Daily Press to help them give back to the community.
The 81st annual Daily Press Holiday Fund kicked off Nov. 1 and continues through Jan. 31. Last year, reader donations helped raise more than $142,000. The McCormick Tribune Foundation matched each donation with 50 cents on the dollar to bring the total distributed to $214,000. The foundation is a national philanthropic organization based in Chicago that provides financial and administrative support for its community fund partners.
The Daily Press and the McCormick Foundation hope to raise $150,000 this year. Organizations like the Salvation Army, Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula, Peninsula Agency on Aging, American Red Cross and The Samaritan Group of Gloucester benefit from the fund.
"Without the holiday fund we wouldn't be able to provide holiday gifts," said Janet Millard, Peninsula Agency on Aging, development director. The agency will give away 200 hygienic gift bags to needy seniors.
How you can help
Mail contributions to the Daily Press Holiday Fund, P.O. Box 794, Newport News, VA 23607-0794. Donors are encouraged to send contributions with a completed copy of the coupon that appears in the Daily Press so gifts can be acknowledged in Sunday editions. Donations also may be delivered to the newspaper's office at 7505 Warwick Boulevard in Newport News, charged by phone at 800-518-3964, or at dailypress.com/holidayfund.
See Page 14 of News about how to donate.
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