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Twin City We Care prepares for holiday giving

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HOLIDAY GIVING: Betty Harris, organizer of Twin City We Care, sorts through non-perishable donations for those in need.
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VOLUNTEERING:Jerry Bosworth, a volunteer for Twin City We Care, lifts boxes of donated goods in a warehouse.

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

GAS CITY — As Christmas trees are adorned and outdoor lighting hung, it is important to not forget those who are most in need this holiday season.

Twin City We Care, a nonprofit organization that began in 1980, is hard at work helping struggling community members in Gas City, Jonesboro and Mill Township. The nonprofit is comprised of local volunteers who host a number of fundraisers to ensure families are fed and children have presents.

"I was among the people who started it," said Betty Harris, organizer of Twin City We Care. "It was a case where we were finding that there were several organizations and churches doing the same thing, with many people getting multiple (donations) and others getting none."

Harris and other volunteers set out to change this with the help of a We Care organization in Kokomo.

“All of the money (donated to us) stays here locally,” Harris said. “And we do the actual handing out of donations.”

The Sunday after Thanksgiving, the nonprofit held an auction and raised about $10,000, compared to last year's $13,000. Harris attributed this to a smaller crowd and less donations than last year.

Next for the organization is a canned food drive.

“(In) Jonesboro and Gas City, the fire departments (are) going up and down the street of both towns (collecting donations),” Harris said.

The collection will start at around 12:30 p.m.

Canned donations that have a distant expiration date are the best items to donate. However, Harris said baking supplies are also important.

“Last year we did not get very many baking supplies,” Harris said. “If (families) want to whip up a pan of brownies they could, (so) it's always good (to have baking supplies).”

Food donations are especially important this time of year, she added.

“The kids are going to be out of school for two weeks,” she said. “People with children need to feed them lunches and dinners, at school they get free lunch and breakfast.”

Diapers are also something that is always in short supply, with several families in need who have newborns. The nonprofit also needs hats and gloves for kids, underwear, socks and sweatshirts.

Another volunteer for Twin City We Care is board member Ann Willey, who has been with the nonprofit for at least three decades.

“I could see the (good) they do,” said Willey, a retired teacher, on why she joined the organization. “I was very active with students … and I could see the need in the schools for an organization like that.”

Willey said being a part of the organization has been a rewarding experience.

“Unfortunately, there are families that would suffer and do without if it weren't for (organizations like us),” Willey said. “We’re not the only ones in the county, all of them do a great deal of good for people.”

Twin City We Care placed angel trees at locations in the area, such as Walmart, which took 80 names, and the new Riverside Community Federal Credit Union location in Gas City which put 25 names on its tree.

This year, there are 219 kids signed up for the Angel Tree program.

“These are for local families, people can go in and pick off a child and go shopping,” Harris said. “Christmas is about the children.”

There are about as many families who have requested help this year is about the same compared to last year, according to Harris.

Harris attributes this to several families who have sought help in the past not seeking help this year, while several new families have, due to recently moving to the area or having simply fallen on hard times.

To those who ask, they can receive boxes of food to get them through the holidays. Depending on family size, there are four to eight boxes of food handed out to each family, which are valued between $150 and $200 in total.

In one recent Meijer trip by Harris and her volunteers, they spent around $7,500 on food for the boxes.

By the time some people pay their rent, utilities or medical bills, there is little money left over for extra things, Harris said.

On helping so many people in the community, Harris said, “It’s just my and the communities' mission to help others.”

“That’s the way life should be,” she added. “We should help one another, we never know when we're going to need help.”