Gaithersburg holiday giving program wraps up record season -- Gazette.Net


Gaithersburg’s Holiday Giving Program wrapped up its 2013 season by serving a record number of families and children in December.

More than 900 households and 1,700 children benefited from the program, which coordinates with the city, area religious congregations, nonprofits, businesses and individuals to provide donated toys, gift cards and money to local families in need. Gaithersburg’s program is part of a larger countywide initiative, according to Lisette Orellana, program coordinator for the city’s community services division.

This year, 175 volunteers donated a combined 1,200 hours to the program, Orellana said. Donors included Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, Journey’s Crossing, and Pinky and Pepe’s Grape Escape.

“I am thrilled to have seen the community effort and the collaboration from all agencies and all the sponsors,” she said.

A unique element in Gaithersburg’s program is that community sponsors have the option of “adopting” families or children for the December holidays, meaning they contact the families directly, learn about some of their needs or desires, and personally deliver the goods to their homes.

“It’s a great connection because our sponsors get to see firsthand who they are serving,” she said.

The next holiday season will mark 20 years of operation for the city initiative. With the number of referrals growing each year, Orellana hopes to expand the program by enlarging the city committee in charge of its coordination. Currently, Orellana and two volunteers serve on the committee.

“I’m thinking of expanding by getting more volunteers and more people involved earlier on,” she said.