More Carbon and Emery County residents are hoping to find basic living needs in their stockings this season, according to Pam Juliano of the United Way.
Between the 2002 and 2003 holiday seasons, United Way of southeastern Utah saw a considerable increase in those requesting aid with the holiday season.
In 2002, approximately 560 requests for aid were received. Those numbers nearly doubled for the 2003 season to 1,083 requests.
"It was frightening because we didn't know that that many people would have requests. There were more people in a pinch," commented Juliano.
But, while Juliano indicates that requests for the 2004 year are far less than the staggering numbers of 2003, the demand for basic living needs such as warm clothing and shoes is higher than in past years.
More first-time applications have been received this year by the United Way, too.
In a Thanksgiving coat drive where 200 coats were made available, Juliano said the group had run out of coat vouchers in 20 minutes.
The following weekend, an additional 60 coats were also given to members of the community.
Juliano pointed out that area residents in need during the 2004 holiday season are from all different walks of life and family situations.
"We're finding that it is not the traditional single parents homes that have the need," she stated.
In order to receive aid from an organization like United Way, families must meet the same eligibility that is required to qualify for food stamps or be affected by a major crisis such as death, illness or long-term unemployment.
Christmas wish lists are made by the distressed families. Individuals, along with many local businesses, then pool their efforts to meet the needs.
According to Juliano, United Way serves as a complete date base for the area, allowing different entities to consult and assure that all community members with need are being helped by someone.
"The whole idea behind what we do is to make sure everyone has a way to let the community know they need help or they have help," she said.
In addition to those who apply for aid, recommendations are also received by religious leaders, teachers and school administrators, councilors at mental health agencies and other concerned members of the community.
Angel trees with Christmas wishes are placed throughout the community for individuals, families and businesses to sponsor. Money, food and time donations are also excepted by the United Way. Money donations can be made at the Balance Rock Credit Union or dropped at the United Way office. Volunteers are also needed to help with wish list shopping and the delivery of gifts to families.
Some funding received this season will go toward the food bank to purchase Christmas turkeys. The United Way will also purchase personal hygiene items and paper goods that the food bank is not allowed to purchase. According to Juliano, the food bank is limited to being only able to purchase consumable items for distribution. As a result, items such as diapers, paper goods and other personal items are needed.
Carbon and Emery County residents should also be mindful that the need for humanitarian aid does not end with the holidays.
"People aren't just hungry at Christmas," indicated Juliano.
In January, United Way will host a children's shoe drive as well as kick-off a three-month food drive. Educational programs with an emphasis on financial planning and management are also expected to be offered soon, said Juliano.
"We don't want to be in crisis mode. We want to be in prevention mode and education is the best way to do that," she concluded.