Santa may be going over his list of who’s naughty and nice, but he might miss approximately 1,700 children and upwards of 800 families in Jackson County without a dedicated local effort.
Niki Adams, executive director of Jackson County Family Connection, holds the same position for Jackson County Holiday Connection, Santa’s most valuable helper locally. In that role, Adams presides over the process of identifying needy families and children, matching them with various groups who “adopt” families for Christmas, and running the Holiday Connections Store Dec. 11-13 where families can “shop” for donated toys for their children.
Essentially, Holiday Connections both collects and distributes gifts and matches groups with similar holiday intentions with people who need assistance, cutting out duplication so the generosity will reach more people.
At the “front lines” for the program, Adams said, are teachers and counselors in the county’s three school systems who help identify families or children in need and take applications for Christmas assistance.
A committee reviews the applications, after which groups “adopt” families for the holiday.
“They will contact the family, talk about the items they need and what kind of things they’d like to see under the tree,” said Adams, who is in her seventh year of leading the effort. “Then they (the groups) will set a time to take gifts to the families.”
There are two other options for those wishing to help. One is to conduct a gift drive, the other is to make a monetary or gift card donation to the Holiday Connections Store.
The store will be held at Jackson Creative in Commerce, which is also the drop-off site. Donations of gifts and money will be accepted up to Dec. 21, because there are always late applications.
“We try to fill those when they come in and make sure they’re not left out because they turned in their applications late,” Adams explained. “Last year we had nine kids that were taken into foster care late.”
Volunteers will likewise be accepted to work at the Holiday Connection Store, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Anyone wishing to help in any way can contact Adams at 706-367-3021 or 706-410-0538. Donations can be mailed to Jackson County Holiday Connection, P.O. Box 883, Jefferson, GA 30549.
“This is our seventh year doing the toy store,” Adams explained. “We’ve got a good group of volunteers to go out — they know what to shop for.”
The store needs new, unwrapped toys, but it will also take “gently used” larger items, such as bicycles and razor scooters outgrown by their original owner. Adams said it takes $7,000 to $10,000 to fund the store.
The Jefferson Rotary Club is collecting bicycles for the effort. They’ll take the bikes to the Potter’s House for repairs before they go to Holiday Connection.
Holiday Connection goes beyond gifts.
A group of volunteers hosts a sit-down dinner (with waiters and menu choices) in Jefferson for Holiday Connection applicants, and the Braselton Rotary Club holds a similar event targeting needy kids who might otherwise not experience a holiday meal.
“We have a bunch of churches that help us. Some adopt families, some do toy drives. Some people do a Thanksgiving dinner,” Adams said.
How to help
•drop off a new toy or a gently used bicycle by Nov. 30 at Jackson Creative Center, 106 Industrial Parkway, Commerce (706-335-5379)
•adopt a family by calling Niki Adams (706-367-3021 or 706-410-0538)
•send a monetary donation to Jackson County Holiday Connection, P.O. Box 883, Jefferson, GA 30549. Make checks out to Family Connection and make a notation for Holiday Connection. Donations are tax deductible
•contact Adams (706-367-3021 or 706-410-0538 or by email at email@example.com) to volunteer to work in the Holiday Connection store
•participate with one of the churches or other groups working to provide gifts, host meals or in other ways supporting Holiday Connections