UCS helps families with Christmas gifts

Workers at the United Christmas Service office are busy answering phones.

Julia Moffitt/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - With the unemployment rate still high in Indiana, it's no secret thousands of families will not be having a Merry Christmas.

But there is still time for you to help, through an organization that has been reaching out to families in need for decades.

With Christmas less than a month away, the phones are still ringing in the office of the United Christmas Service. Calls from families all over Central Indiana, looking for help putting presents under the tree.

"Some of the families are so desperate especially this last week, some to the point of tears," said UCS employee Alexis Jefferson.

Jefferson is just one of the many people at the United Christmas Service, a United Way program that helps pair needy families with either their adoption or voucher program. Last year, the organization helped 28,000 people. This year, that number jumped to 30,000.

"Every year, it seems like the need continues to grow and this year, even more so, the number of applications that we got in for donor adoptions was 50 percent greater than last year at this time," said United Way Volunteer Services Director Alan Witchie.

Even though Christmas is a year-round operation at the UCS headquarters, that doesn't guarantee every family will get the help they need this Christmas.

"Some of the things are so heartbreaking, some people that have trouble all year, they lost their homes, living with relatives," said UCS employee Christiane Herrmann.

Herrmann doesn't like having to turn families away, just because the money isn't there. But she says there's a silver lining.

"You also hear some of the positive stuff, some of our donor families are so excited. They are just so excited," she said.

Generous individuals, families, even companies adopt families and then purchase $100 in Christmas gifts for each family member. WTHR takes part in the program and, for 11 years, CNO Financial Group in Carmel has rallied employees wanting to help.

"Every year, we sponsor 40 families for United Christmas Service. The company provides funding and team captains will go shop for those families," said Media Oakes, CNO Financial Group.

Right now, UCS has about 600 families paired with donors, but still need to find donors for 300 other families and it's not too late for you to help. The deadline is December 17.

Once again this year, Channel 13 will donate all the proceeds from sales of our Sunrise Cookbook to the UCS. Last year, it raised $150,000. You can get this year's cookbook at all Marsh supermarkets for $9.99.

You can meet the Sunrise crew and get your cookbook signed at the Marsh in Zionsville on Michigan Road this Saturday (December 4) from 8-10:30 am. There are several other signings scheduled this month, including one at the Marsh on SR 135 and at Stones Crossing in the Center Grove area on Thursday, December 9.