With high unemployment in Hernando County, nonprofit organizations have seen a sharp increase this year in the number of children in need of holiday gifts.
And most report a decline in the number of donations they have received.
With Christmas just a week away, the charities are scrambling to make sure every family in need is taken care of.
"People who normally donate to us are in the position of receiving this year," said Cathy Fouthard, social services director for the Salvation Army of Hernando County.
Fouthard has seen an increase in applications, many of them coming in late. So far, the organization is helping more than 400 families in Hernando County and is extending its deadlines to ensure that each family has a Christmas dinner and at least three presents per child, age 12 and under.
"Everybody is being very generous," Fouthard said, adding that despite the economic instability, people are still stepping up to the plate and helping their fellow residents.
Many charities have had to get creative.
"Maybe each child won't get as many gifts, but there will definitely be a gift for everyone — we're doing the best we can," said Bob Ross, program coordinator for the U.S. Marine Reserve Toys for Tots of Hernando County.
Toys for Tots this year received applications from 100 more families than last year, Ross said. Though overall toy donations were not down significantly, he said, the early December toy drive by U.S. Postal Service letter carriers was down nearly 20 percent.
On Saturday, the Marine Corps "elves" will invite moms and dads to choose from unwrapped toys that have been collected, and on Monday and Tuesday the corps will distribute leftover toys to various churches and organizations.
Though volunteers have picked up the boxes from most of the dropoff sites around the county, Ross said there is still time to donate new, unwrapped toys to the Marine Corps League headquarters at 8405 Sunshine Grove Road, west of Brooksville.
The story is much the same at the Christmas Angel Program of Hernando County.
"The gifts are coming in okay, but it's not heavy," said Mary Scarff, who operates the program with her husband, Bill.
Christmas Angel has received the same number of referrals for children in need of gifts, about 200. However, they stopped accepting requests for teenagers age 17 and 18.
"I'm not happy that we had to do that. We thought we'd drop our numbers back, but then we got more calls," Mary Scarff said.
The program receives referrals from the Hernando County school system.
Though many groups are finding ways to work around the economic downturn, others are starting to feel the crunch.
"This year is the worst we've ever had," said Linda Hoins, president of the Foster Parents Association of Hernando County.
Her organization has seen a steep decline in sponsorship by corporations and churches while the number of foster children in need of presents has increased by about 25 percent.
"Christmas is tough for foster children. They miss their parents, even though they may have been beaten or (the parents) may have not treated them right," said Hoins, who personally takes care of seven children.
Her support group collects gifts, many of them for teenagers, and they are accepting any and all donations right up until Christmas Eve.
Need is also up at the Jesus and Me Ministry.
"We're helping those who don't have and can't get for this holiday, the economy is so bad," said JoAnn Munford, organizer of JAM, who for the past 15 years has provided a Christmas party, complete with wrapped gifts, food and a chance to meet Santa, for children in need.
For the first time, Munford and fellow Love Your Neighbor board member Lisa Callea have put a "giving tree" in Callea's Rising Sun Cafe at 10 S Main St. in Brooksville, featuring names and ages of children. The tree will benefit families assisted by both JAM and Love Your Neighbor.
They are collecting gifts for 140 kids, with about 45 names still left on the tree as of midweek. They are taking donations until noon Monday.
"Whatever you can give," Munford said, "there's a need out there."