CARBONDALE — Over the next week, local residents can sign up for vouchers to receive food and gifts for the holidays.

This giveaway is Victory Dream Center's 19th annual Spirit of Love/Operation 400 Food and Gift Drive, in which organizers plan to give away more than 40,000 pounds of food and more than 1,000 toys and other gifts to local families in need. The voucher is required to receive a box and gifts.

Vouchers were distributed at Victory Dream Center in Carbondale from 10 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, and will be distributed Tuesday, Nov. 28, at the church. Voucher-holders will pick up their food boxes and gifts at the church on Sunday, Dec. 10, at assigned times.

The church is at 607 E. College St. in Carbondale, across from the fire station.

As the need has risen in the community, the Dream Center has expanded its food and gift drive from 350 to 400 families for the second year in a row. The Spirit of Love/Operation 400 will provide large boxes of food and gifts for 400 families on Sunday, Dec. 10.

There are several opportunities for the community to participate in this outreach.

Individuals and organizations are invited to make a tax-deductible donation, or to contribute toys and other gifts for children and teens.

The Dream Center is looking to raise $7,500 to fund this project. Checks may be made out to VDC (Victory Dream Center) and may be mailed to 607 E. College St., Carbondale IL 62901, or dropped off at the Dream Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m Tuesdays through Fridays.

Toys may also be dropped off through Saturday, Dec. 9.

Employers who wish to make their holiday gift exchange a benefit for Spirit of Love/Operation 400 may request fliers from the church. Merchants donating cases of food, packing materials, or other supplies are asked to contact the church administrator to arrange a pick-up time.

More than 1,500 gifts are needed for children up to age 16. Suggested items are games, stuffed animals, blocks, dolls, tea sets, trucks and cars, puzzles, tool sets, art supplies, balls, jewelry, keyboards and other musical toys.

For teens, suggested gift items are bath products, wallets, purses, journals, diaries and athletic equipment, including basketballs and footballs.

Those contributing toys that need batteries are asked to include the batteries and to tape them to the box. Candles are also not recommended because of the risk of fire. Gifts should not be wrapped because the participants will be choosing the gifts for their children.

Community members may also volunteer to help on box-packing day, on Saturday, Dec. 19. The assembly line will form at 9 a.m. and is usually finished by 3 p.m. Some volunteers are needed to do heavy lifting, but light duty tasks will also be available.

For more information, call Nathan Cherry at the church at 618-351-8018 or 618-525-2025.

stephanie.esters@thesouthern.com

618-351-5805

On Twitter: @scribeest

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Reporter

Stephanie Esters is a reporter covering Jackson and Union counties.

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