Yarmouth hopes to reduce holiday stress for less fortunate

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YARMOUTH — A nonprofit that connects local resources with people who need them is accepting applications from families who need help buying gifts for their children during the holidays.

Yarmouth Cares About Neighbors is also looking for volunteers to sponsor families or to donate money that can be used to buy gifts. The initiative is part of the town’s annual Project Holiday.

“For families, it gives them hope,” YCAN volunteer Jean Rafford said. “It helps them have good holidays.”

Applications, which are available on the YCAN website, at the community services building behind Town Hall, and at the First Parish Church at 116 Main St., are due back by Dec. 1. Families must live in Yarmouth to participate in Project Holiday.

Parents are allowed to request gifts for children under 18 years old, but Rafford said most of the children served are preschoolers or younger. The application asks for children’s ages, their hobbies, and possible gift ideas. Families can also request food for the holidays on their applications.

According to YCAN, 109 children received gifts through Project Holiday last year and 292 children and adults received food.

Rafford said Project Holiday takes the financial burden of the holidays off low-income families and allows them to have one less thing to worry about.

“If I were in that position, it would make me feel like I could still give my children presents,” she said. “It takes some pressure off families.”

Project Holiday also includes the initiative Operation Bundle-Up, which collects and donates winter clothing to families in need. The clothing, which includes coats, hats, and gloves, is distributed throughout the winter at the Yarmouth Food Pantry. 

Volunteers who sponsor a family are responsible for buying gifts for each child in the family. Rafford said YCAN asks sponsors to spend at least $100 on each child. She also said oftentimes one person doesn’t sponsor an entire family; companies, organizations, or neighborhoods will come together to serve that need. 

People can also volunteer by knitting items for Operation Bundle-Up.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.