United Way of Martin County spread holiday cheer for people facing hard times

Holiday Project Distribution

Despite all of the challenges that threatened to play Grinch with holiday toy donations, the Christmas magic supply chain was at full capacity at the United Way Holiday Project.  

For more than 30 years,  United Way of Martin County has helped bring Christmas to thousands of children and their families facing hard times by providing toys and a traditional holiday meal, and this year was no exception.

“Initially, we were concerned that price increases and supply chain issues would diminish our donors’ ability to give and our ability to bring special joy to kids at the holidays, but once again the community rallied behind this effort,” said United Way of Martin County President/CEO Carol G. Houwaart-Diez. “We had a record-breaking year in the number of bikes we were able to purchase and distribute, which is incredible considering the challenges we faced.“

The holiday cheer was needed this year more than ever as families faced economic pressures, and many couldn’t afford the extra expense of a holiday dinner and toys on top of the regular necessities.

This year, the United Way of Martin County distributed 12,342 toys for 1,506 children, thanks in part to support from businesses and individuals who cared enough to donate to through U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Foundation. United Way of Martin County is the local coordinating organization for Toys for Tots and ensures all toy donations made in Martin County go toward creating a bright holiday for local children.

Each family was also provided with a turkey and a bag of groceries filled to the brim with the staples for a traditional holiday meal. 

For the eighth year in a row, Zweben Law Group coordinated the Zweben Law Group Bike Drive to make the holidays extra special by covering the cost of over 336 bikes so that children could experience the magic of waking up on Christmas morning to find a shiny bicycle under the tree. Martin County Paramedics & Professional Firefighters rallied to support the effort by assembling nearly 200 bikes during their time off. Volunteers helped sort toys, decorate Santa’s workshop, assemble bicycles and more. In all, 219 volunteers, including 65 AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers, donated their time in a collaborative effort to make Christmas memorable for local children. 

The United Way Holiday Project benefitted from generous sponsorship from Rubin & Rubin Law Firm, STS Aviation and Treasure Coast Legal.

Nonprofit agencies, faith-based organizations, and the Martin County School District also played a vital role in referring families in need.  The data was carefully checked for duplication with other area holiday programs to ensure as many families as possible received assistance. 

“United Way dedicates an incredible amount of time and energy for this project, but it truly could not happen without the entire community rallying around the effort,” Houwaart-Diez said. “It’s a shining example that we all win when we Live United.”