WINNSBORO — Christmas holidays will be brighter for 180 children in Fairfield County this year thanks to donations from the Families Helping Families program (FHF), sponsored by WIS-TV.
For over 15 years, FHF has partnered with Fairfield County DSS to match up needy families with gifts for children ages 3-17. Caseworkers invite clients to apply each fall at the Fairfield County DSS office. Children make out a wish list with two to three items per child on it.
Per FHF policy gifts must be less than $25, but donations of bicycles are accepted. The wish list includes clothing sizes for the children.
Stephen Mitchell, the coordinator of the Fairfield FHF assignment, said FHF helps get Fairfield County DSS families adopted by the program but said the need was so great in the county that DSS rotates eligible families so most families receive gifts one year and then must wait two more years until they can be adopted again.
That way the program can reach the outlying areas of the county as well as Winnsboro city limits. Occasionally if DSS determines extenuating circumstances, that policy can be waived for some families.
Winnsboro native Kendra Pickett said people who are on public assistance meet the income guidelines to apply for FHF adoption.
FHF sets up a date to deliver the toys and the Fairfield County Recreation Center supplies a location for distribution. County workers from the Fairfield County Department of Corrections help unload the trucks and help families load their vehicles with packages. Pickett said families are notified about 10 days prior to the distribution date.
“Employees with DSS, with the EBT program, Medicaid, Child Protective Services and others volunteer their time. We could not do this without the help of workers and people from the community,” Mitchell said.
Families also are given thank you letters to send to the families who adopt them, courtesy of FHF.
This year they gave away around 100 bicycles in addition to clothes and toys.
The gifts are collected within the WIS viewing area, including Fairfield, Lexington and Richland counties.