As the registration deadline for one of Polk County’s favorite Christmas traditions draws near, Share Your Christmas is giving the community plenty of support in a way that will certainly help out Santa Claus.
The last day for families to register for Share Your Christmas is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, at the Polk County Christian Social Ministries Center, 327 S. Springfield Ave.
Leta Gass, Polk County Christian Social Ministries board member, said around 1,000 people have signed up for Share Your Christmas so far this year.
“People-wise, we’re hoping to get 1,400 to 1,500,” Gass said, referring to numbers of registrants. “We have served as many as 1,900 in the recent past.”
Last year, SYC served around 1,800 people, she noted.
During the two days of distribution, set for Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 11-12, Gass said volunteers are welcome to show up to the PCCSM center to help.
“We estimate on the days of distribution that we have between 100 to 150 volunteers,” she said.
Over at the PCCSM center, one volunteer who’s lent a hand to the program since the very beginning offered a glimpse of how SYC is shaping up.
Karen Penticuff, who’s in charge of managing SYC’s gifts for two- to four-year-olds, said she has been volunteering for the event since Polk County’s first Share Your Christmas 34 years ago.
“At the very beginning, though, we actually didn’t do toys like we do now,” Penticuff said. “It was whatever was donated, and we would just pull a toy for kids — we didn’t have requests.”
But now, the program has grown substantially, she said.
“I personally work year-round gathering toys, books and things,” she said.
In terms of meeting SYC goals and present requests, Penticuff said she believes the organization is “getting there.”
“There’s always those few special requests that we have to look a little more for,” she said.
Thinking back over the years, Penticuff said one of the most memorable SYC moments she could remember happened when a child wanted a specific stuffed animal for Christmas — a whale.
While she struggled to find a whale at first, somebody from her church donated a bag of stuffed animals that year.
“I opened the bag, and on the top of the bag was the animal that I needed,” she said.
For the rest of SYC’s run this year, Penticuff said people are encouraged to sign up and donate more items. Coats are always in need, she noted.
And for volunteers who wish to help out during SYC’s distribution days, something as simple as pushing carts or passing out food will help, she said.
The PCCSM center will remain open until 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, for those who can’t come in during regular hours.
To register, families must bring an income verification from the Salvation Army or Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation; proof of residency, such as an electric bill or rent receipt; and social security numbers, names and birthdates for each individual living in the home.
A PCCSM news release said no sign ups will be taken after the center closes on Monday. The center will then be closed until Jan. 6, 2020.