Hardnett has volunteered at the Anniston nonprofit Community Enabler Developer for 15 years, spending each holiday season readying donated toys for children who may not have anything to unwrap Christmas morning without the agency’s help.
Maudine Holloway, director of the agency, said she expects Community Enabler will help about 200 families this year, nearly the same number as last year, she said. The nonprofit provides food, clothing and utility assistance to Calhoun County residents throughout the year.
“They’re still signing up,” Holloway said, adding she expects to see many parents come to the agency for help just before Christmas.
Although the agency received enough donations of toys for younger children this year, there is a need for gifts for teenagers, Holloway said.
The agency on Monday boxed and bagged toys for 36 families in Hobson City. The after-school program at the agency’s Sable Learning Center there has grown from about 16 students last year to 36 this year, Holloway said.
The country’s overall economy has improved since the Great Recession of 2008, but for the poorest areas of the country those gains are hardly visible, Holloway said.
To help more people, Holloway and her staff will move into the agency’s new facility, at the former Carpenter United Methodist Church at the corner of Wilmer Avenue and F Street in Anniston. After several decades of declining membership, church leaders in July donated the building to Community Enabler.
Bill Bunn, a Community Enabler board member, said he expects renovations of his former church to be completed by the first week of February.
The agency recently received a $10,000 grant from Alabama Power to replace the building’s aging central heat and air-conditioning system, and there remains work to be done to ready-storage rooms to hold food and clothing, Bunn said.
Holloway said she and her staff of workers and volunteers will continue to hand out toys until Christmas Eve. As long as there are families in need and toys left to give them, they’ll keep working, she said.
“When the folks quit coming in we’ll go fix our Christmas dinners,” Holloway said.
Meanwhile, the local Salvation Army is wrapping up its Angel Tree program, which identifies families in need of help and places their children’s wish lists on paper angels for donors to adopt and buy gifts for.
Capt. Bert Lind of the Calhoun County chapter of the Salvation Army said about 620 angels were adopted this year, and the group spent between $8,000 and $10,000 buying gifts for the 120 or so remaining angels.
This year’s number of unadopted angels was much more than in years past, Lind said.
Lind believes many people are hurting financially themselves, and were unable to give this year.
“On the bright side, a lot of the people that did adopt gave quite a bit,” Lind said.
The county chapter of the Salvation Army had more than 800 children sign up for the program this year, Lind said, slightly more than last year.
Donations of toys are no longer needed, Lind said, but cash donations to the Calhoun County chapter of the Salvation Army can be sent to 420 Noble St. in Anniston.
Gift donations for Community Enabler Developer can be taken to its location at 104 East F Street in Anniston. The agency can be reached at 256-237-6144.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.