Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund volunteers Saturday conducted their annual holiday toy distribution to children from local households that are struggling to make ends meet, making the holidays brighter for their young ones.

Known as the oldest charity in Bartholomew County that depends solely on public donations, the Firemen’s Cheer Fund was founded by the Columbus Fire Department in 1930. Outside of a few years during the 1940s when operations lapsed, the Cheer Fund has been delivering toys — generally more than 1,000 each year — for about 70 years.

It is just one of many local efforts to help at-risk children and families this holiday season. Multiple efforts are building momentum of generosity by residents.

For example, Toys for Tots returned for a second year with The Outreach church leading efforts, and has a goal of helping 1,000 children in Bartholomew and Jennings counties. New, unwrapped toys and money for children ages newborn to 18 are sought. The good news is that the effort has a sizable buy-in from local businesses, as about 80 are contributing some type of assistance to the toy drive. Additionally, residents have many choices for dropping off toys because about 40 drop-off locations were secured in Columbus, Hope, North Vernon and Edinburgh.

Other notable drives include:

  • Hope Cops Christmas for Kids
  • Love Chapel’s Food Assistance Program
  • Salvation Army Angel Tree
  • Shop with A Cop, by the Columbus Fraternal Order of Police

That may seem like a lot, but consider the local need. More than 45 percent of Bartholomew County households are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. That means many families struggle to meet basic needs and have little or no extra money for items such as holiday gifts.

That’s unfortunate. Thus, the need for generosity continues to be high.

The aforementioned drives are worthwhile efforts that local residents should consider supporting this year and every year. They make a difference in people’s lives. The gift of giving can be uplifting for donors, too.

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