As the holiday shopping season kicks off, nonprofit officials hope people who have a little extra to give will help others in need. More people are reaching out to Christmas gift assistance programs.
At The Neighbors' Place in Wausau, children write down the top three presents they'd like for Christmas. Most of the time, executive director Tom Rau says it's not video games or CDs that the kids want.
"You know, it'd be nice if they were asking for CDs and things, but normally you have things like snow pants, coats, boots, those kinds of things," he says. "We've had wonderful sponsors over the years. When they see a request like that they'll stick a toy in there, too. I mean, it is Christmas."
Last year, The Neighbors' Place gave gifts to more than 1000 kids in Marathon County. Rau says he expects more families to reach out this year.
In Madison, the Porchlight homeless shelters are at capacity and it's going to be a busy holiday season. Development Director Beatrice Hadidian says they'll be providing gifts to people living in the shelter and in the organization's affordable housing.
"Some people will request jewelry or maybe some perfume, but nine times out of ten it's those essentials like new dishware, a gift card to a grocery store or maybe to a book store," she says. "We've had people actually request bus tickets before."
The Salvation Army in Milwaukee already has 700 more requests for gift assistance than it did this time last year. Officials say demand will be up around the state and they'll try to get a gift under every Christmas tree.