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story.lead_photo.caption FILE: SERVE, Inc. volunteer Margie Dillon-Odneal carries a crate of toys past piles of presents for Adopt-a-Family participants.

Officials from SERVE Inc. said 210 children have yet to be adopted for the annual Adopt-a-Family program.

The program, which is 100 percent local, helps provide gifts for children in need, plus a full Christmas meal for each participating family. The program also includes senior citizens and individuals with disabilities. After local low-income families sign up, community members, organizations and groups get to "adopt" each child and purchase gifts.

This year saw a record-setting 461 eligible children sign up, of whom 281 have been adopted, SERVE Executive Director Courtney Harrison said. There's a wait-list, too, with 30 children. The more adopters who sign up, the more potential adoptees get to have Christmas this year.

"That's a total of about 251 families," she said during a recent Callaway Resource Network meeting.

In addition, 126 seniors and disabled individuals have signed up to receive stockings.

Adopt-a-Family is a pricey undertaking. Typically, the adopters and/or SERVE spend about $75-$100 per child, and it costs up to $100 per family to provide the Christmas dinner. Unilever donates hygiene products.

"The food alone costs upwards of $15,000 to $18,000," she said.

With so much need, there are plenty of ways to give. Obviously, you, your church or your business can "adopt" one or more children. Forms are available at SERVE (4901 County Road 304), and SERVE will provide you with the child's gender, age and wish list. Adopters should buy something the child wants, something they need, something to wear and something to read. Gifts shouldn't be wrapped, but the adopters may include wrapping paper for the family.

You can either do the shopping yourself, or sponsor a child through SERVE by giving $100 and letting the volunteers do the work.

In fact, donations of any amount are welcome.

"If people donate even $20, that helps tremendously," Harrison said.

If money isn't an option, you can give time. SERVE needs many volunteers to assemble food baskets, sort gifts, set up the distribution site at the Mueller Center on Westminster College's campus and, of course, help distribution day go smoothly.

Distribution day is Dec. 18, and SERVE needs volunteers from Dec. 9-13 for drop-off and Dec. 16-18 for distribution.

To learn more or volunteer, call 573-642-6388 or visit SERVE.

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