Santa’s helpers collect for needy:Realtor group continues Christmas tradition

by Michael Short on February 24, 2011

By Michael Short

Everywhere you looked, people were busy wrapping.  Boxes and boxes of balls, games and coats were wrapped and placed outside in a small mountain of bags to be distributed to needy families and children.

For more than two decades, the Sussex County Association of Realtors (SCAOR) has gathered and wrapped Christmas gifts for those in need. In addition to the dolls, bicycles and toys, everyone who asks for it receives a winter coat. Each family also receives a gift card for food.

“It’s not about just toys, it’s about needs,” said Sussex County Association of Realtors Community Service Foundation Wrapping Chairman Susan Mills.

Realtors, friends and family members  from all over Sussex County gathered at the Rusty Rudder on Thursday, Dec. 9 to wrap gifts. Approximately 60 people wrapped gifts, some of it almost assembly line style. About 90 people gathered to do the shopping for this year’s gift giving.

The Rudder is normally closed now, but it opened its’ doors so they would have a place to wrap presents.

“We can’t do it without the support of the community,” Mills said.

This year, 165 families are being helped.

A total of 424 children are also being helped.

It’s considered a true community effort because the Rudder opens it doors, Grotto Pizza buys lunch, Kmart opens early and offers discounts so the realtors can stretch their gift dollars and Food Lion gives discounts on gift cards.

School nurses, the Children’s Beach House, First State Community Action and other service agencies recommend children and families in need. They also give information about what each family needs.

The money comes from an annual auction in October as well as from donations from members.  While they raise a considerable sum of money, it still has to be stretched to buy all of those gifts. So, the children won’t find computers or iPads under the tree. But they will find dolls, games and the occasional bicycle.

The realtors also bought 310 winter coats to ward off the winter chill and some families receive car seats for their young children. Donations are tax deductible and all the money raised stays in Sussex County to help friends and neighbors who are having a tough time.

“It’s giving back to the community in which we live and work,” said Dave Lambert, the president of the Sussex County Association of Realtors Community Service Foundation. “I think that every year we find there is a need.”

Mills notes that with the sluggish economy, the group has noticed an increase in the number of homeless people this holiday season.

“You have to give back,” she said.

“The realtors are like the elves,” she said with a laugh.

“It’s a chance to help people who are less fortunate than myself,” Lambert said.

“We’re (realtors from different businesses) friendly competitors,” Mills said. “But it’s an opportunity for everybody to come together and do something for the good of the community.”

To make a donation or help with next year’s gift drive, Mills and Lambert suggest you contact your local realtor or real estate office for more information.

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