Organizers of the annual Monroe County Christmas is Caring campaign said last week there are some significant changes in the program this year.

Organizers of the annual Monroe County Christmas is Caring campaign said last week there are some significant changes in the program this year.

The first is that this year’s deadline of Nov. 13 will be a firm deadline, said Diana Hammond, one of the organizers.

“Anyone who does not get their application in by this date will be referred to the Toys for Tots ministry,” said Hammond. “Also, this year Christmas is caring will be providing Christmas presents for foster children in Monroe County.”

Christmas is Caring was founded more than 45 years ago by Phyllis and Riley Barton.

“They began by repairing old toys to give to children in need at Christmas. As the community heard about what they were doing, they started receiving cash donations. By the time they retired in 2015, Christmas is Caring was a firmly established ministry in Monroe County. The ministry had also grown to include food baskets for the families as well as toys and clothing,” Hammond said.

The community of Paris and many organizations fundraise for Christmas is Caring throughout the year. People have been donating their aluminum cans all year long. The drop-off point for cans is the Paris Veterinary Clinic. Last year, the participating organizations, churches and individuals raised more than $12,000 to pay for the gifts, clothing and food, Hammond said.

“This really is a countywide project,” Hammond said. “Phyllis and Riley never wanted this to be seen as ministry of the First Baptist Church. The Baptist Church allows us to stage there and takes care of our financial reports for us, but this ministry has representatives from all of the area churches and many non-church organizations as well.”

Hammond said that families get applications from NECAC, and on the applications, they indicate if they want just food, just toys and clothes, or both. If they are requesting toys and clothing, they are asked for a wish list of three toys that the child would like to have. They are also asked for the child’s clothing size, favorite color and character. The application will also ask if the child needs a new coat or shoes. Food baskets will be put together based on family size. John Gilmore has administered that aspect of the Christmas is Caring ministry for many years and does an amazing job providing for the families.

She said the toy-and-clothing side of the ministry will give each family a number, and each child a letter.

“We invite the people of the community to adopt a child for Christmas and provide that child with the clothing portion of their gift. Information cards for the children available for adoption will be available at both Missouri Regional Bank and Paris National Bank beginning Nov. 14. We are hoping to have cards at the Paris Pharmacy this year as well,” Hammond said. “Gifts will need to be returned to the Baptist Church by Nov. 30. On Dec. 2, the Christmas is Caring ministry team will have a massive shopping day and purchase the rest of the clothing and gifts for the children. All of the gifts will be organized by family and they will be invited to come and pick up their gifts and food on the day of distribution.”

In 2016, Christmas is Caring provided food for 65 families and Christmas gifts and clothing for 72 children.

“Because of the generosity of the community we were able to provide new coats and shoes as well,” Hammond said.