John Rieping/The Madera Tribune
Families in need choose from among toys donated to Love INC at a Christmas giveaway Friday as volunteers assist.
Families in need picked out toys for 106 children Friday thanks to Madera Love INC. About 300 toys were given out as well as food from Yosemite Christian Center and the Madera County Food Bank.
“Every year Yosemite Christian Center does a toy giveaway on Thursday and then they give us what toys they have left,” said Al Christoffersen, co-executive director of Love INC, “and this year it was really great because the food bank gave us toys (and) the rescue mission gave us toys. A couple of people went out and bought $50 worth of toys and then they gave us toys. Then one church gave us some toys too. So we’ve had more toys than we’ve ever had.”
Eight volunteers assisted the giveaway, with some wrapping toys chosen to be gifts by parents who were invited to participate. Love INC called families who’d demonstrated need during the past year and had them come out for the event.
Local chapter members of E. Clampus Vitus, a historical society better known as the Clampers, provided some personal aid as well this year.
“We had a lady call us wanting to help two three families with gifts … We chose three families that were very needy this year and they did an outstanding giveaway,” said Barbara Christoffersen, co-executive director of Love INC.
The Clampers “bought two or three gifts per child” as well as a gift for their mothers, who had not asked for anything for themselves. “So they were really a blessing and it was a nice connection to make with somebody,” she said.
The name Love INC “stands for Love In the Name of Christ,” Al Christoffersen explained. Madera’s Love INC branch is the only one in the U.S. run by a husband and wife team, which took the local nonprofit over six and a half years ago. The organization responds to calls for help by community members by tapping into local resources.
“They can call in and ask for help with paying their rent, PG&E (or) water bill,” he said. “They (may) need a box of food … (or) a ride to the doctor. They need a fence fixed. … We share (the needs) with the churches and then we go to the different agencies ... The most that we help a person is $100 and that’s if we can find it.”
Love INC helps about 150 to 200 people each month, he said, and more recently the number of families seeking help has grown. Most seek assistance with utility or rent payments.
“There’s a lot more,” he said. “We’ve had a whole lot more calls and its very difficult to tell people we can’t help them because we’ve used up our funds for the month, and that’s usually about the middle of the month. Then the rest of the month we kind of have to have them call back the first of the next month, and if they don’t get thrown out of their house or (have) their water turned off then we’ll try to help them then.”
With so many people in need, donations are always welcome.
“We’re taking care of a lot of things that the people of this city I believe would like to help people with, and they can do that by sending us (tax deductible) donations,” he said.
Madera Love INC is at 880 S. Pine St. and welcomes walk-in visitors and clients. For information on the organization, visit www.loveinc.org.