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April 15, 2021

Project Santa provides food, toys, clothing for families in need, applications being accepted next weekend

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — What began with a $25 bonus check from Bobby Garner has grown to serve more than 500 children in the Denton area and eastern Rowan County. This holiday assistance program — Project Santa — is one of four area programs gearing up to accept applications.

Project Santa Coordinator Keith Garner said the program began with his father, Bobby Garner, and is now housed and organized at First Baptist Church of Denton. The program was opened up about 15 years ago to residents in eastern Rowan County — particularly those in the Rockwell, Granite Quarry and Morgan schools areas.

Project Santa provides toys for school-aged children, clothing and food to families in need on Christmas Eve. This program along with Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, the Salisbury Post’s Christmas Happiness Fund as well as Toys for Tots, a program of the U.S. Marine Corps and Arc of Rowan’s Operation Santa will all have a single application process beginning next weekend.

About three years ago each organization held its own application process, but now all of the applications are being taken through the Christmas Bureau, an organization created in 2013 as a way to bring all of the organizations together.

The Rowan County United Way was instrumental in bringing the five organizations together and coordinating the bureau.

The application process is a way to avoid duplication in services. Using a common form, volunteers take applications at the J.F. Hurley YMCA, 828 W. Jake Alexander Blvd., during the following designated dates and times. Once approved, the requests are assigned to the appropriate agencies.

Applications will be accepted on the following dates:
• Friday, Nov. 4 — 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m
• Saturday, Nov. 5 — 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
• Saturday, Dec. 3 — 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Last year, Project Santa served 551 children or 223 families in the Davidson County and eastern Rowan County areas, Garner said.

He said over the last three or four years, they’ve averaged between serving 500 to 550 children.

“We do it for the kids…to make sure they have something on Christmas Eve,” Garner said.

He said at this time of year, bills and normal living expenses are of priority for some parents and after those bills are paid there isn’t much left for Christmas toys.

He encourages people who have a need to sign up during the offered available times.

There are some families who may not need toys for their children, but maybe in need of food or their child may need a winter coat.

The program collects food and clothing throughout the year at First Baptist Church of Denton and makes it available for families in need. Project Santa has even grown so that volunteers could provide assistance to Hurricane Matthew victims and assistance for children during the summer.

The organizations individually have their own criteria, be it age requirements or need, but anyone who would like to see if they qualify for these programs can apply in person through the Rowan County Christmas Bureau.

The other programs for which applications will be taken include:

• The Salvation Army Angel Tree, which gives gifts for children and food for the family.
• The Salisbury Post Christmas Happiness Fund, which gives vouchers to families who qualify. Each child receives $30 per child that can be spent locally for toys and clothing.
• U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots, the community donates new, unwrapped toys into collection boxes and coordinators distribute the toys.
• Arc of Rowan Operation Santa, which provides for families with developmentally disabled children.

Only the parent or legal guardian of a child may apply. All applicants must have identification and documentation for all of the children for whom the application is being sought.

People applying for help through the Christmas Bureau should bring:
• ID/Driver’s License
• W-7 for each member of household
• If ID is expired, need a recent lease & utility bill
• Medicaid card
• Birth certificates for children 12 & under
• Proof of all income and expenses
• Unemployment
• Custody papers, if guardian

To volunteer to help with applications, contact the Rowan County United Way at 704-633-1802.
Follow the Christmas Bureau Facebook page at for regular updates on application dates and other details.



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