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Article updated: 12/6/2012 3:03 PM

Thousands donate but need still exists for Christmas gift giving program

Holiday gifts going to poor families, but more needed

By Mick Zawislak Gilbert Boucher II

One would have thought that with the activity and inventory at Catholic Charities' gift warehouse on Wednesday, there was plenty to go around.

But despite the good will of thousands, the Adopt-A-Family Christmas gift program remained short of filling the need.

"I'm out of donors and I've got about 800 people left," said Jim Wogan, who has coordinated the Christmas gift program for Catholic Charities for 15 of its 27 years.

"To be honest, we've never been in a position of having this number of people who registered not covered," he added.

Each year, gifts are sought and collected for as many as 15,000 kids, seniors, disabled and homeless people who receive services from Catholic Charities and also for people served by about 40 social service agencies in Lake County.

Distribution of gifts to about 800 families is scheduled for Friday, with three similar events slated for next week.

With time ticking down, he was hopeful that individual donors, as well as those from businesses, churches and various organizations, will come through to fill the gap. Collections began this week with donations from Hewitt Associates in Lincolnshire and St. Gilbert Catholic Church in Grayslake, Wogan said.

Another big load of presents arrived Wednesday at the warehouse courtesy of Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. Work with the Christmas gift program is one of three elements of the school's annual Give-A-Thon, which also has been benefiting food pantries and homeless shelters for 28 years.

More than 60 students, members of the National Honor Society, delivered, unloaded and helped organize the toys and gifts they collected for about 235 needy families.

"It feels really great. We worked really hard raising money for these families. We know that these presents are going directly to the families, and it is just great that we can make someone's Christmas a lot better by giving them presents that they might not be able to afford this year," said junior Stephanie Li.

Senior Kevin Xu unloaded the semitrailer truck filled with bags of wrapped presents.

"I was just amazed at so many gifts. Like so many gifts, every gift, I thought of as another child will be happier this holiday season," he said.

Donors shop for the gifts armed with the name, age, gender, sizes and gift preferences of the recipients, Wogan said. The gifts are given to kids up to 17 years old and average about $30 per person. Last year, the bounty included 450 bicycles, he added.

Interested donors can call Wogan at (847) 782-4210 or email jwogan@catholiccharities.net.

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