Hurricane giving blamed for lack of donations at co-ops

LAWRENCEVILLE - Many Gwinnettians in need may find fewer toys under the tree and less food on the table on Christmas Day than in years past. Intense giving after Hurricane Katrina and an influx of displaced families have resulted in fewer donations and a higher demand.

"We had 43 new families in November," said Shirley Cabe, Norcross Cooperative Ministry director. "We are serving around 1,350 families and we have 233 families that are just Katrina (related) alone."

After the hurricane a lot of things changed, Cabe said. Normally the 17-year-old ministry restricts service to Norcross residents only, but Cabe expanded the service region to include all Gwinnett residents suffering from the natural disaster.

The Lawrenceville Cooperative Ministry has also seen a difference this month compared to last December.

"The demand is higher and we're tapping into resources we wouldn't normally use until the first quarter of the year," said Linda Freund, Lawrenceville Cooperative Ministry director. Higher utility bills are also affecting a large majority of Gwinnett residents and new faces are showing up at the door, Freund said.

The Norcross, Lilburn and Lawrenceville Cooperative Ministries are in critical need of food and gift donations.

Kay Whithear, Lilburn Cooperative Ministry director said they are struggling to get enough gifts for teenagers.

"We'd like gift cards so they could get what they want, but even socks and sweatshirts are good," Whithear said.

Unwrapped teenage gift donations are also needed by the Norcross Cooperative, Cabe said.

"Our toy store is pretty empty," said Cabe. "And our food pantry is empty as opposed to the extra overflowing food we normally have this time of year."

The shortage of teenage gifts and donations may also affect foster children at the Georgia Department of Children and Family Services on Christmas Day.

"We still have 75 foster children who do not have sponsors this year for Christmas," said Deborah Barinowski, DFCS volunteer resource coordinator. DFCS serves children from infancy up to 20-year-olds.

Each year the children compose wish lists for Christmas and a sponsor shops for the specific items on the list much like they would their own child, Barinowski said

"These kids are in the care of the state. Many have no warm loving family to make them feel special," Barinowski said. "When someone cares enough to shop for them and give them what they want in their hearts that makes them feel special."