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Families dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 and are facing a Christmas that looks and feels different this year. Many are mourning the loss of loved ones, unable to gather with family outside the household, or choosing between gifts and necessities like food or heat.

The Christmas Hope program was created in anticipation of additional needs this holiday season. Led by Delaware County Pay It Forward and supported by the Foundation for the Future of Delaware County, the program will help families with Christmas gifts they may not be able to provide because of financial challenges caused by the pandemic.

“The hope is to keep the spirit of Christmas alive during these hard times and alleviate some stress for families,” said Lisa Guetzko, Foundation board member and Pay It Forward representative. “Once again, Delaware County Pay It Forward has collaborated with concerned community members to fill a gap in resources due to COVID-19. The outpouring of support from across Delaware County is inspiring to behold.”

The program received a grant for $10,000 from the McElroy Trust to assist young people in need this Christmas. Community members have already given more than $10,000 to the program, and support continues to grow.

“Every family deserves to have what they need and every child deserves to feel the magic of Christmas,” said Matt and Anna Drees, who made a $1,000 donation from their family business, Drees Construction. “It is our wish that not only everyone gives what they can, but also that people take what they need. That is the point of paying it forward. When people pull together, we can make a big impact. We are all in this together.”

In Manchester, a unique idea resulted in an additional $7,500 for the program. James and Nicole Riley organized a fundraiser through Fareway encouraging customers to donate $10 to provide a bag of groceries through Christmas Hope. The dollars raised will be used for Fareway grocery-only gift cards to help families make it through the holiday break, when school meals are not available.

To date, Christmas Hope is serving 104 families, including 262 children, as well as senior citizens. Applicants were asked to list up to three wants and three needs, which were turned into confidential, individual gift tags. In Delaware County, 22 businesses sponsored gift trees so their employees and patrons can select gift tags and contribute. Other organizations and community members directly adopted 28 families.

Monetary donations are still being accepted to fulfill gift tags that have not yet been sponsored. To make your gift to the Christmas Hope program, mail a check to PO Box 281, Manchester, Iowa, 52057, or email PIFChristmasHope@gmail.com for more information. All cash gifts will be used to fulfill gift tags and additional Fareway grocery-only gift cards.

“If you and your family need a little hope this Christmas, Delaware County Pay It Forward is here to help,” says Guetzko. Reach out to PIFChristmasHope@gmail.com for a confidential application. Applications will be accepted through Dec. 20.