Charity looking for gift cards for 2020

It may be a bit early, but there are only 14 weeks until Christmas.

360 Communities hopes people have caught the spirit of giving already.

Because of COVID-19, 360 Communities has made a change to its Armful of Love program.

Instead of collecting wishlists from families and asking for donations of wrapped gifts from sponsors, 360 Communities is collecting gift cards for Target, Walmart, VISA, MasterCard and Amazon as well as grocery store gift cards from Cub and Aldi in $25 increments.

While it’s more fun to buy toys, the change was made to limit exposure while giving parents and guardians the flexibility to shop for their families’ gifts from home or in person.

“I hope that people are understanding enough,” said Sue Lewis, volunteer manager with 360 Communities. “We felt strongly as an organization we still wanted to do the Armful of Love program. We wanted to ensure our volunteers and families, sponsors and staff can maintain people’s safety and health. This way we can still help people in our community who are struggling probably more so than in any other year.”

Normally the families give a gift list to 360 Communities, and sponsors choose gift tags and purchase the items.

“The intent is to provide gifts for families that are economically challenged that wouldn’t be able to provide gifts to their families otherwise,” Lewis said. ”We are never at a lack of getting families for the program.”

In the past four decades, Armful of Love tried to serve about 1,000 families per year, but right now they don’t have enough donations for the 2020 gift-giving season.

The program often has similar sponsors year-to-year such as churches, offices, nonprofits, businesses and individuals.

Typically they have about 350 sponsors. In July they contacted past sponsors from the past two years and heard from about a fifth of what they need, Lewis said.

360 Communities hopes to have enough sponsors by Oct. 5.

Gift cards can be dropped off from 9 a.m.-noon. Sept. 25, Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 at the Burnsville Family Resource Center, 501 Highway 13 E., Suite 112.

The whole process is starting about five weeks earlier than normal, but they want to get the gift cards in the hands of families before Thanksgiving.

“The sooner that individuals register on the website the better,” Lewis said. “We’re trying to rely on sponsorship forms to give us a sense of how many families we can serve this year.”

It’s early in the process and some people may not be able to afford as much in 2020, but Lewis and 360 Communities knows that “we live in a community that’s about helping your neighbor. They provide dignity in a non-judgmental manner.”

People can sign up on its website to be a sponsor at 360communities.org/resources/armful-of-love.

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