NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 3, 2012

Holiday Program seeks cheer-makers for needy kids

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY — When you’re a kid, there’s nothing quite like waking up on Christmas morning to a heaping pile of presents under the tree.

But for those less fortunate, finding the money to put any presents under the tree can sometimes be a struggle. So to help those people, the Amesbury Holiday Program is looking for volunteers willing to donate toys, clothes and gifts for Christmas.

The Amesbury Holiday Program is a nonprofit organization that has been helping struggling families in Amesbury provide Christmas presents to their children for the past 23 years.

Last year, the program helped more than 125 families and 235 children in need, and program director Raelene Kukene said the need is even greater this year.

“We’re well over 200 children,” Kukene said. “We’re over where we were last year for sure.”

Registration for the Holiday Program was held back in October, and Kukene said roughly 130 families in Amesbury signed up for assistance this season. Each family that signed up provided a short Christmas list, and the program hopes to assign each list to a volunteer who would then donate the items on the list.

“The children get two items of clothing and they’ll have two toy items,” Kukene said. “We try to keep it under $100 or $150 per child, but it depends on the age; a winter coat for a teenager is going to be more expensive than a winter coat for a 4 year old, for example.”

The Amesbury Holiday Program is only open to residents of Amesbury and all families who register to receive gifts are screened beforehand.

“We screen everybody to make sure their income qualifies,” Kukene said. “We’re very careful and we talk to Pettengill House (in Salisbury) to make sure no one is trying to get gifts from other organizations, too. We try hard to keep it honest and our goal is to make sure every child has a smile at Christmas.”

Kukene said the program has already heard from a lot of volunteers interested in donating gifts, and said she’s always amazed by the way Amesbury rallies to help those in need.

“This community is amazing with their generosity,” Kukene said. “We’ve had a huge response as far as families in need this year, so we’re very grateful to the community.”

Anyone interested in helping with the effort should contact Kukene at 978-388-0626 or email raebasket@comcast.net.