Donations ebbing for Waves of Caring

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OCEAN CITY — Hoping to create some Christmas magic for those in need, a small army of volunteers spent most of Tuesday, Dec. 6 organizing, sorting and packing an assortment of goodies.

Every year, the volunteers work quietly behind the scenes for Waves of Caring, a city-sanctioned community-wide program that collects and distributes new toys and gifts for children of needy Ocean City families. The organization also provides financial assistance to residents who do not qualify for other assistance on a one-time, emergency basis.

Waves of Caring has brightened the hearts of hundreds of children over the years. A compassionate community collectively donates their time, money and talents to assist families who might otherwise face a dismal Christmas.

“We’ve started packing, but people are still welcome to donate,” said Linda MacIntyre, the city clerk who has led the organization since its inception. “It’s never too late if someone would like to help us out.”

This year, the organization itself is in need; a sputtering economy has taken a toll on both those in need and those who, when times are good, donate.

“There is a noticeable difference this year,” MacIntyre said.

On packing and sorting day, the multi-purpose room at St. John’s Lutheran is traditionally filled to overflowing with toys. This year was a different story.

“We would have no room to put anything else so (we’d) put things under the tables, not this year. The bins we’ve had around town have been light, it’s just not there. We’ve seen a big drop-off. The economy has really affected us. A lot of people are hurting.”

The goodie bags, MacIntyre said, will be lighter.

“Last year we spent more than we received. We were worried about this year,” she said. “It gets harder every year.”

In the past, MacIntyre said they would ask people not to donate games like “Chutes and Ladders” because they had so many.

“We would have 20 extras, it’s a popular game and everyone brought it in,” she said. “Now we have five. It’s really unbelievable.”

Organizers had already re-grouped, scaling down from some of the bigger-ticket items to focus on what children truly needed.

“We’ve let the families know, this would be a difficult year,” MacIntyre said. “We’ve put the word out, we need help. We focused on priorities for the children, a special toy and clothing.

“We are seeing more of a need for gloves and hats, coats,” she said. “When we talked to parents, they told us they are having a tough time buying clothing and things to keep their children warm, let alone buy toys. We took care of those needs as best we could, we would love to be able to offer the fun things, too.”

Last week, Port O’Call hosted a fundraiser for the organization. MacIntyre said the local hotel’s effort was greatly appreciated.

“We had two great big laundry bags filled with toys, and there were still more on the floor,” she said. “The Port O’Call is always extremely helpful and they gave us a generous donation. They’re good people. We couldn’t do this without the help of the community.”

With the need growing, MacIntyre said she is putting out a call for help.

“We would love to be able to go out and shop some more,” she said. “Usually we’re wrapping it all up by now, but we are really in need. The kids will get toys, but not like in the past. If anyone is looking to help local children this season, we could use it.”

MacIntyre said the Ocean City High School field hockey team came in and helped sort and pack.

“We gave them a pizza party to thank them,” she said. “Any help is always appreciated.”

The organization has cycled through tough times before, but MacIntyre doesn’t remember a year that was this tough.

“Times were bad when we started Waves of Caring, then we hit a booming economy and things were good,” she said. “We were flourishing, but that’s not the case anymore.”

The Waves of Caring drive started in the late 1980s by the downtown Retail Merchants Association. Containers were placed in front of local businesses to collect toys. In 1990, the organization turned it over to the city.

“Jean Mimnaugh worked in the public relations department, and she took over the program,” MacIntyre said. “When she retired, she handed it over to the administration office, and I volunteered. It’s all about helping children.”

The organization distributes flyers to local schools seeking those who might be in need.

“It’s a whole process,” MacIntyre said. “Families have to sign up at the public assistance office. We check them out to make sure that they are local residents. Young children are given toys, high school children are given gift certificates to buy new clothing. Everything is age appropriate. We also consider special gifts, requests like a coat.”

Monetary donations are most welcome: a $300 donation provides for a family of six children.

Waves of Caring also offers an Adopt a Family program.

“You buy something for each, we keep it anonymous,” MacIntyre said. “It’s a great thing for a family who can afford to do it.”

Though the city sanctions the event, a benevolent group of city employees and outside volunteers donate their time to make the organization work.

“Every dollar that someone gives goes directly to a child or needy senior citizen, every dollar,” MacIntyre said. “We have no overhead. If you donate, you are helping a local person in need.”

MacIntyre said donations may be dropped off at the City Clerk’s office on the ground floor of City Hall.

 

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