Every year, as the holidays approach, families around the County gather to celebrate with festive decorations, feasts of all flavors, and often also an exchange of gifts. What is easy to forget during these festive times is the fact that there are many families around the County that are struggling just to put food on the table. The United Way of Aroostook (UWA) along with many partners and donors have been able to provide gifts for over 900 children each year. Due to COVID-19 it is expected that even more families with children will be seeking assistance this year.

“Christmas means different things to different people, but for many, the idea of giving and being a more charitable person is a priority, said Sarah Ennis, Executive Director of UWA. “This year we have received more support from organizations and businesses than ever before. Small businesses throughout the County have been sending in donations. We also received a significant donation from United Bikers of Maine through our partners at Aroostook County Action Program (ACAP) that will make a huge impact on our program and allow us to reach more children than before.”

“Many of the families served by ACAP are recipients of holiday gifts from the United Way’s Santa’s Sleigh Project. When we received the generous donation from United Bikers of Maine to support families around the holidays, it just made sense to work with our partners at UWA. UWA has been providing this program to families via municipalities for decades and we wanted to support their impactful, countywide program”, said Sherry Locke, Development and Communication Manager at ACAP.

The Santa’s Sleigh Team has collected toys in the past during the Annual Holiday Light Parade in Presque Isle and at select business locations. Due to COVID-19 the collection process is different this year. Gifts can be donated in a drop box just outside the United Way of Aroostook’s office at the Aroostook Centre Mall, purchased and shipped using the Santa’s Sleigh Walmart Registry or by sending a monetary donation for the United Way staff to purchase the gifts.

“We received 350 gifts from the Presque Isle Varsity Club, will receive gifts from a toy drive at Northern Light A.R. Gould, from NorState Federal Credit Union employees and St. Mary’s Catholic Church. These generous partners have continuously supported this program and helped to provide the hundreds of gifts needed to make this a success,” added Ennis.

If you feel you lack the financial resources to celebrate properly with your children during the holiday season there is special assistance for low-income families desiring to celebrate the special time of year. Please contact your local municipality for assistance to be signed up for Santa's Sleigh. If you are in Presque Isle you can register for assistance through the Presque Isle Kiwanis Club. They will be taking registrations December 1-4th from noon until one and December 8-11th from noon until one at the Sargent Family Community Center. Masks are required for in person registrations.

United Way officials say donated gifts for teenagers are often lacking. To compensate for the shortage, UWA is also seeking monetary donations so they can shop for gifts for any last-minute gifts to ensure all children in need receive a gift this holiday season. Donors are encouraged to mail monetary donations directly to their office at 830 Main St, Presque Isle, ME 04769

Once all donations have been received, the gifts will be packed up for distribution to towns who have requested them. Each town then gives the gifts to children who need them in their community.

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