Making Christmas bright for kids

TAKING INVENTORY — Dale Brown, chairwoman of the First Congregational Church (UCC) of Bridgton Community Action Task Force Committee, has helped with the Adopt-a-Child for Christmas program nearly 30 years. 

It will be a good Christmas after all for many local children thanks to the effort of caring community members.

The fellowship hall at the First Congregational Church (UCC) of Bridgton was a flurry of activity last week as church members organized, sorted and packed items like new coats, boots, hats and mittens for 189 Bridgton children.

All the planning, organizing and fundraising, which began around Labor Day, culminated with 75 families receiving Christmas gifts on Friday, Dec. 16.

The church’s Adopt-a-Child for Christmas program is the only holiday clothing program in Bridgton. It complements the church’s “Jeanette’s Closet,” which offers no-cost clothing to people who need assistance with basic necessities. Both programs are part of the church’s Community Action Task Force Committee’s mission of helping others in the Bridgton community.

The church has sponsored the Adopt-a-Child for Christmas program for more than 30 years. Church members and caring people in the Bridgton community, businesses, and organizations “adopted” children by purchasing clothing that their parents requested or by donating money to the program.

“We had a record number of children who needed help this year,” said Charlotte Nolan, coordinator of the program, “and the people in our community were so generous — purchasing gifts, donating their time or money to help make Christmas warmer and brighter for so many children and families.”

Those donating include the employees at Bridgton Hospital, Stevens Brook Elementary, L.L.Bean, Bridgton Lions Club, Harrison VFW, Maine Street Graphics, Oberg Insurance and Real Estate Agency, Pondicherry Chapter of the Eastern Star, Jones & Mathews, members of St. Joseph Church, South Bridgton Congregational Church, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and First Congregational Church, and several anonymous donors.

The high cost of fuel, food, and housing combined with high unemployment, underemployment, and decreasing funds for social programs contributed to the increased need, noted Nolan. The program has typically served 150 to 160 children per year.

One mother who participated in the program expressed the sentiment of many, “I just couldn’t have done it without you this year. Thanks a million and Merry Christmas.”

Donations continue to be accepted.  Send your check to First Congregational Church, P.O. Box 243, Bridgton, ME  04009. Please note Adopt-a-Child program on your check.

Jeanette’s Closet is open every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon, beginning Jan. 3, 2012.

The First Congregational Church is located at 33 South High Street in Bridgton. Sunday services are at 10 a.m. and there is childcare and Sunday school available. For more information, call 647-3936 or visit the First Congregational Church website at www.bridgtonucc.org

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