TAVARES — With the budgets tight this year, many families are downsizing their holiday shopping lists or, worse yet, have been forced to put celebratory gift-giving on hold. Two Lake County employees stepped up to fill the void by helping more than 120 children have a happy holiday.
Jane Reich (left) and Rebecca Foley-Kearney prepare bags of holiday toys for families in need.
The Lake County Department of Community Services, Children’s Services Section, began receiving phone calls from families needing assistance about two weeks ago. Rebecca Foley-Kearney, Lake County’s Children’s Services Manager, put out a call for donations through her distribution list of children advocacy agencies and citizens.
“The response I got was awesome,” she said. “This was so overwhelming, I felt like we needed to help. If people call and need help, we will step up. We are Community Services and our mission is to help the community.”
Donations included 11 bicycles, boxes of toys and stuffed animals, and gift certificates to local stores. Foley-Kearney said she received donations from a lot of different places, and she will highlight the list of donators in the Children’s Services Council newsletter next month.
“The drive has pretty much taken over the Community Services conference room,” Foley-Kearney said. “I couldn’t have done it without the donations and generous help from my elves (Brenda Quattlebaum, Elder Affairs Manager, Jane Reich, Office Associate, Allison Thall Support Services Director and Anne Lanier, Office Associate).”
In addition to Community Services efforts, Lt. Michell Bass from the Lake County Department of Public Safety, Fire Rescue Division, has brought a unique holiday spirit to the County’s fire stations for the past 20 years. Each year, she collects gifts from firefighters and citizens to hand out to underprivileged children. This year was no different, except the numbers that needed help. At last count on Christmas Eve morning, Bass had helped nearly 80 children.
“It’s more than we have done before, but we have had more citizens help this year than we ever had before,” she said.