Each year, this Franklin County Children Services initiative provides gifts for more than 6,000 children.

This monthly feature focuses on volunteer opportunities for Central Ohio families.

It's a sad reality that each year, thousands of Central Ohio kids don't receive any holiday gifts. Since 1963, Franklin County Children Services has sought to change that for the youth under the agency's care.

The Holiday Wish program provides presents for more than 6,000 children who face challenging circumstances either at home or in foster care. Elizabeth Crabtree, director of Holiday Wish, said the effort began when a caseworker sought to expand a program in which two local donors bought gifts for youth housed at one FCCS site. Since then, Holiday Wish has reached more than 180,000 kids—proof, she said, that one person really can make a big difference.

“This might be the first new toy they ever get in their life. It might be the first holiday toy that they ever get,” Crabtree said.

Children ages 11 and younger make a “wish list” valued at $50, while ages 12 and older receive a $60 gift card. Donors, who numbered about 1,800 last year, are a mix of individuals, businesses and families, Crabtree said. They can purchase and donate a new toy, contribute money or—a common approach for families—sponsor children by shopping and fulfilling their wish lists. Crabtree said the agency can match a donor family with a client family whose children are similar in age to the donors. “That makes it a little more meaningful,” she said.

Holiday Wish also enlists volunteers to help sort, stack and wrap gifts, though spots for this year's program already are filled.

For more information, send an email to holidaywish@fccs.us, call 614-275-2525 or go to childrenservices.franklincountyohio.gov.