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YMCA needs help to bring holiday joy to the needy

Nearing crunch time for its annual holiday-help campaign, the YMCA still needs a boost from families who would like to help bring Christmas to the needy.

This year's Neighbor-to-Neighbor program will provide toys, food, a Christmas tree and other holiday cheer for 420 families, said officials of the Jim and Heather Gills YMCA.

Typically, the program means Christmas comes to about 1,500 children who otherwise would go without. Sponsoring families contribute $100, which helps pay for the holiday cheer.

Churches and other nonprofit organizations choose the families whom the program serves.

The "adopted" family receives a tree ornament anonymously describing the sponsoring family, which gets an ornament describing the family it has helped. No names are used.

"We are only about halfway to reaching our goal (of sponsoring families),'' said Crispin Williams, a YMCA spokeswoman.

Anyone interested in helping can call Williams at the YMCA, (727) 895-9622, ext. 222.

Mayor Rick Baker founded the program in 1992. The first year, it helped 50 families.