Volunteers needed to spread "Spirit of Sharing"

BENNINGTON — With the holidays fast approaching, organizers trying to spread the "Spirit of Sharing" are seeking volunteers to help put presents under the tree this season for children in need.

The effort, which pairs individuals, organizations and businesses with families in need, is a collaborative effort between the Catamount Rotary Club and local staff with the state Agency of Human Services.

"The community for years has continued to amaze me with how they step forward," Anne Mook with the Catamount Rotary Club said on Monday.

As of Monday, a total of 199 children across 95 families had been signed up, according to Sadie Fischesser, the Agency of Human Services' field director for Bennington and Windham counties. About 50 volunteers — either individuals or groups — had applied to purchase gifts.

This year is the fourth the program has distributed gifts for families in need since it was revived in 2014. This year represents the second year the program has collected Christmas presents for families in need since it was revived in 2014. Prior to that, the program existed in Bennington from 1983 to around 2008.

In order to qualify , families in need had to register with DCF's Economic Services office. Once someone volunteers to purchase gifts for, or "adopt," a child or children, the volunteer is given a "wish list" from each child and are told the child's gender. Volunteers are asked to spend between $25 and $35 per child and bring the gifts (unwrapped with the wrapping supplies) to the state office building, where families will pick up the gifts.

Cindy Marsden with the Department of Children and Families remembers one family coming to the office to pick up their gifts and bringing their young son. He had asked for a bike, and was overjoyed when he learned he got one.

"The look on his face when he saw the bike, the smile on his face, I'll never forget that," she said. "He put the helmet on and drove it out of the lobby."

In 2016, 378 children across Bennington County were "adopted" by 118 individuals, organizations and businesses, organizers say.

Mook said there were about 70 groups consisting of employees of area businesses and members of organizations whom pooled resources to purchase gifts for one or more child.

"That shows the generosity of the community," Mook said. "It's amazing when people step up to help others."

Fischesser reflected: "Many families say, 'I was hoping I wouldn't have to use this this year, I feel really close to being on my own. But I'm so glad it's here.' You can hear like it gives them hope. knowing that someone is out there who cares."

"There's been so many times when someone who was a recipient and comes back in to help as a volunteer," Mook said. "It's very moving."

For more information, visit the Bennington County Spirit of Sharing page on Facebook.

To sign up to volunteer, visit: https://goo.gl/forms/eHzzo8BV7udl0ZRk2

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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