Jackson County children will get a visit from Santa

Jackson County children will get a visit from Santa

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - With no Toys For Tots in Jackson County this year, a grassroots campaign is underway to make sure needy children will have presents under the tree on Christmas morning. This week the Believe Children's Christmas Assistance program began taking applications. Organizers said they understand what the struggle is like for parents and their families.

Ryan Ballinger is one of those struggling parents.  With three children and being out of work right now, Ballinger is feeling stressed about the holidays. "All that's on my mind is trying to get them presents," Ballinger said. "I'm racking my brain trying to come up with money to get presents because three little ones. They wake up and there's no presents."

Businesses, churches and other groups will use large decorated boxes to collect toys for the Believe Children's Christmas Assistance program. Believe was started by members of a community outreach called Sisters that usually runs a toy drive but couldn't do so this year.

"Sisters handled between 300 and 400 last year. My understanding is Toys For Tots handled 700 to 1,000," said organizer Pam Williams. "That's a lot of children in Jackson County. I have been in that situation where you struggle for Christmas with the smaller children. We were always blessed. God always took care of us but I know there are some out there that that's what they rely on and it's a shame they have to but at the same time I wanted to make sure there was something available."

Applicants are required to meet certain requirements to be eligible.

Parent must have a valid state issued ID.

Must have proof of Jackson County residency such as a utility bill, rent or mortgage agreement, etc. If you live with someone, you must provide a notarized letter from that person.

Proof of income such as a pay stub, Social Security, SNAP, welfare, unemployment, disability, or TANF verification letter is also necessary. Any and all income must be reported.

Two documents for each child such as a birth certificate will be required,  A Social Security card, Medicaid card, school ID or shot records will work. The organization will accept a Crib Card for a newborn.

Believe will be at the Vancleave Community Center taking application on Nov. 17, 18, and 20 from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. The group will also be at the American Legion in Gautier on Dec 1-3 from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Also, applicants cannot have requested help from other programs that offer Christmas toys.

"We like to say we're trying to cover Jackson County's need not their greed," said organizer Angela Reynolds. "Really we're in this to help the children. It's not about the parents. It's about these little children that their life situation isn't up to them. It's not fair to them. Every child should have Christmas."

Ballinger said it's a relief no to have to worry about Christmas.

"I think that I'm not a man if I'm not providing for my kids but a man actually asks for help so this place really helps out a lot," said Ballinger.

Believe organizers said what they are doing would not be possible without community support.

On December 6, Scott's Smoking Vapor in Helena will be doing a motorcycle ride from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. The American Legion in Gautier will be hosting a ride to collect toys and donations on December 13. Little River Marina will be hosting Toys on the River to collect toys and donations.

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.