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Annual effort to put gifts under the tree for needy kids under way
BCFC Christmas 21
Wendy Futch, holding Monopoly game, with, standing from left, Rita Cobb, Josh Covington, Patrick Lane, Roddy Canas, Kevin Fountain, and, kneeling, Eleana Alderman and Austin Edwards at the Bryan County Family Connection Office in Pembroke on Wednesday morning. Photo provided

Bryan County Family Connection Director Wendy Futch long ago earned her spurs as a bona fide Santa’s helper. After all, Futch has helped provide thousands of presents to thousands of local children since she first went to work for BCFC in 2003.

With the help of her staff and volunteers, Futch is doing it again this year.

She estimates around 600 children in some 200 families will receive gifts in 2021 through the kindness of donors and volunteer help from Pembroke Area Communications in North Bryan and the Richmond Hill Police Department on the south end.

“The community is always so generous,” Futch said, noting the main sponsor of the event, the Good Ol’ Boys of Richmond Hill, raised around $25,000 during their annual Santa Scramble in November, and churches and other groups around Bryan County have adopted children through “Angel Trees.”

That said, there are some who still need adoption – kids from 12 to 17 years old. Futch estimated as many as 100 of the older children may still await adoption through the Angel Tree program.

Families eligible for gifts through BCCF are vetted through the Department of Family and Childrens Services and Bryan County Schools.

They have to be local and meet criteria established by organizers of the Children’s Fund, who purchase from lists given to them by the families.

But Futch is seeing a difference in those who are eligible this year, due to COVID and its impact on jobs and more.

“We’ve seen families affected by COVID in so many ways, they come from all sorts of backgrounds,” Futch said.

“COVID caused people to lose jobs, COVID affected people across all populations and socio-economic backgrounds.”

COVID also forced some changes to how presents are distributed, including the decision to have recipients get their packages in a drive through. That’s one thing that won’t change this year.

“That’s one positive takeaway from last year, in that we’ve been able to distribute things a little bit better by drive through. So that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

That, and continue to bring smiles to the faces of youngsters around Bryan County.

“That’s probably the best part of my job,” Futch said.

While most applications are already in hand and Futch and her elves will begin distribution Dec. 20, there are always some last-minute applications to fill due to family hardships ranging from fires to terminal illness.

For more information about Bryan County Family Connection or the Angel Tree program, call 912-653-3824. The deadline to adopt an angel is Dec. 13.

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