Giving spirit
It's now the season for toy donations

WINDER - Though the extra Tootsie Rolls are barely eaten up, and the front porch jack-o'-lantern's hardly wilted, the season of toy donations is sweeping Barrow County like a frosty gale.

Leaders for the 2008 Barrow County Holiday Connection kicked off fundraising efforts this week with the annual "Beans, Bears and Band-Aids" event in Winder. From here, it's full-speed ahead until Christmas, said organizer Michelle Walker.

The Holiday Connection is a volunteer-based, county-wide clearinghouse that provides holiday assistance to more than 150 families each year. All proceeds - be it toy donations, or financial gifts - go directly toward gifts.

"Big or small, every little bit can make a difference to a child," Walker said. The initiative "provides a one-stop registration for families needing assistance this holiday season."

In 2007, the Holiday Connection provided Christmas gifts to more than 1,600 kids in Barrow. Eligible families who apply are invited to shop the aisles of a makeshift Holiday Connection store in December, Walker said.

"The store gives the families a way to provide gifts for the holidays with dignity," Walker said.