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

Despite the challenges that put Santa under pressure this year, Christmas magic was at full capacity at the United Way Holiday Project. Nearly 1,800 local children woke up on Christmas morning with presents underneath the tree, thanks to the generosity of local businesses, community organizations, individual donors and volunteers.

For more than 35 years, United Way of Martin County has helped bring Christmas to thousands of children and their families who might otherwise have gone without.

"We are so grateful for the support we received this year," said United Way of Martin County President/CEO Carol G. Houwaart-Diez. "It was a tough year for everyone, but thanks to the kindness of our community, we were able to make a difference in the lives of so many children and their families. We couldn't have done it without them."

This year, the United Way of Martin County distributed thousands of toys for 1,793 local children thanks to nearly 200 businesses that served as collection sites for the 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 also received a turkey and staples for a traditional holiday meal.

For the ninth 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 338 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. The Martin County Board of County Commissioners, Martin County Transit (Marty) and MTM Transit partnered with United Way of Martin County to hold the inaugural “Stuff the Bus” toy drive, where residents had two opportunities to fill a bus with new, unwrapped toys.

Volunteers helped sort toys, decorate Santa’s workshop and assemble bicycles in the days leading up to distribution.

More than 300 volunteers donated nearly 1,300 hours during the two days of toy distribution to make Christmas special for local children. The United Way Holiday Project benefitted from generous sponsorship from Ashley Capital, STS Aviation, SouthState and Premier Realty Group.

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 that 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.” For more information, visit www.UnitedWayMartin.org.