Ensuring a magical holiday

United Way of Bucks County is hosting its sixth annual Holiday Gift Card Drive, which tasks the community with donating retail and food gift cards so that older kids and teens can feel special and not forgotten this season. Source: United Way of Bucks County

For parents/guardians who struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis, the holidays aren’t exactly the most wonderful time of the year. Instead, they’re often plagued with the stress of providing a magical Christmas on a limited budget.

While initiatives such as Toys for Tots make sure the young children of low-income families receive presents, their older teen siblings tend to get lost in the shuffle.

To ensure this is no longer the case, United Way of Bucks County is once again hosting its Holiday Gift Card Drive. Currently celebrating its sixth year, the initiative tasks the community with donating retail and food gift cards so that older kids and teens can feel special and not forgotten this season.

In 2018, the drive served 1,187. The goal for this year is to reach at least 1,200.

“The need is always there,” said Danielle Bush, program coordinator. “Traditional toy drives, they really serve children under the age of 11. Older children are usually left on the giving trees. Either their gifts become a little too expensive or they’re just not as fun to shop for. And so, United Way has stepped in with the Holiday Gift Card Drive.”

Low-income children in Bucks County ages of 11-17 will each receive a $30 retail gift card to stores like Old Navy, Target or Kohl’s, and a $5 food gift card to an eatery such as Dunkin’ or Starbucks. This gives the teen the chance to hang out with friends, go shopping and get something to eat – a luxury they can’t normally enjoy.

United Way determines the recipients through requests from nonprofit agencies, school districts and individuals. For residents reaching out independently, Bush said they’ll be asked to complete a verification process in order to qualify – the parent/guardian can either provide a free/reduced lunch form or a current driver’s license and access card.

During the week of Dec. 16, the recipients and their families can stop by United Way’s office in Fairless Hills to pick up the gift cards.

“They are so appreciative. I’ve seen so many tears of joy and appreciation because folks who are struggling with everyday basic needs, holidays are an added pressure. Any help with the holidays is an incredible gift in itself,” Bush said. “I’ve received hugs. People are so grateful, and we’re grateful. The community really responds to this drive. Just as we don’t want to see anybody without something for the holidays, so does the community.”

There are several ways to participate in the Holiday Gift Card Drive. Gift cards can be dropped off at United Way (413 Hood Blvd., Fairless Hills PA, 19030), a check can be mailed to the same address with “Gift Card Drive” written on the memo line, or donations can be made online at uwbucks.org/giftcarddrive.

Gifts of any amount are appreciated, but Bush said United Way does its best to make sure the average gift is $35 per child.

For families who want to make an independent gift card request, they can do so online or call the Holiday Gift Card Drive Hotline at 215-949-1660, Ext. 105 and leave a message.