United Way database streamlines Christmas donation programs

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 9:05 AM

Rachel Trotter, Standard-Examiner Correspondent

OGDEN — Feeling generous this time of year? There are countless non-profit groups that are need of donations and the United Way of Northern Utah has developed a database to track families that need help. So, more families in the area can get help rather than some getting help from several agencies.

This is the first year United Way has used the database. It purchased it from Utah County’s United Way office and has worked with several other non-profit agencies in the Weber County area since the summertime to make sure plenty of families can receive help this year, said Leslie Herold, executive director of Collective Impact for United Way of Northern Utah. “The database cross-checks everyone and no one will be duplicated,” Herold said.

United Way decided it needed to get serious about Christmas giving when it learned that Toys for Tots would no longer be running a chapter in Weber County, meaning the 1,800 families it had serviced in years past may be left giftless. Herold said United Way has started a giving program called, “Santa United” where people can go online, call or come into United Way offices and adopt a family to give gifts to or even just drop off toys that will be passed around to needy children. Santa United started screening families last month and the turnout and the library sign-ups have been huge.

Julie Johnson, collective impact coordinator, said they hope to be able to help between 1,800 and 2,000 kids aged 18 months to 14. Those are the prime ages, but if there are child family members older or younger, they hope to help them too.

Johnson said the database is proving to be very effective and even LDS bishops can have access to the database to make sure those that come to the LDS Church seeking help are getting what they need. “It’s totally confidential,” Johnson said.

Utah County has been using the database through its United Way office for 20 years and its “Sub for Santa” program is now so successful every family is matched to another family willing to buy Christmas for an entire family, and United Way doesn’t have to distribute anything themselves.

Johnson would love to see the Weber County community get to that point. “We realize we can’t expect that from our community now, but we hope as years go on, Santa United will gain it own reputation,” Johnson said.

Although there are still “Toys for Tots” bins through Weber County that were distributed by the Salt Lake chapter, the chapter director plans to distribute the toys through the United Way warehouse, which will be a great help, Johnson said.

The Christmas Coalition, a collection of non-profit groups working together with United Way, approves of the new approach. Lori Parrish, collective impact director for the Christmas Box House, said unifying to go over what items each organization needs has been invaluable. “If we have an overabundance of one item we can share it and if another group does they can share with us,” Parrish said.

The Christmas Box House depends on donations it gets at Christmastime to supply its closets and pantries for 80 percent of the year, so Parrish hopes that people will be bringing in hygiene items, toys, shoes and other things to help out.

More than 500 kids are usually given Christmas through the Christmas Box House. Parrish said gift cards are wonderful too because they can give the kids experiences like movies or ice skating or even stock their shelves with items purchased with the gift cards.

To find out more about donating to United Way’s Santa United, visit www.uwnu.org/Santa United. To donate to The Christmas Box House’s Project Elf, visit the www.christmasboxhouse.org.

Other non-profits and groups seeking donations so far this year include:

— Baker-Merrill Post 9 Auxiliary of the American Legion is collecting gifts for veterans who are patients at George Whalen Hospital in Salt Lake City. Veterans are allowed to shop free for gifts for family members at the “Gift Shop”. Gifts will be wrapped and, if requested, mailed to family members for free. Items needed include sweat pants for men, socks for men and women, gloves, socks, toys or clothing for children. No glass or perishable items. New items only. For more information contact Gayle Warren at at 801-317-4340 or Judy Lewis at 801-782-6210.

— Mount Ogden Junior High Change for Children event to help students and their families. Donations will be taken at the junior high, 3260 Harrison Blvd. Dec. 5-19. Contact Betsy Galbraith for more information, 801-737-8618 or at galbraithb@ogdensd.org.

— Christmas Jam of Northern Utah will be holding four benefit shows Dec. 5-7 with shows at 7 p.m. nightly and a 2 p.m. matinee on Dec. 7. The concert will benefit the Road Home. The concerts will be held at One Mind Studio, 216 Paxton Avenue, Salt Lake City. Cost is $10 in advance, $15 the day of the show. Tickets, 24tix.com.

— Fremont High School’s Kash 4 Kids to benefit Fremont-area families with things like medical costs, braces for students or other family needs. Donations can be sent to Fremont Kash 4 Kids, 1900 N. 4700 West , Plain City, Utah 84404.

— Poinsetta Fundraiser to benefit People with AIDS Coalition of Utah. Cost is $10 per plant that average 15-19” tall and 15” wide. Call 801-484-2205 or order online at www.pwacu.org. Delivery dates and order dates vary throughout the season.

— Organizations that are part of the Christmas Coalition with United Way are all taking donations. Visit their websites for donation information. They are:

Prevent Child Abuse Utah, www.preventchildabuse.org

Salvation Army, www.salvationarmyusa.org

Saint Anne’s, www.stannescenter.org

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