“Toy Chest” Will Be Open For Thousands

Every year, the Orange County Department of Social Services in Hillsborough turns itself into Santa’s workshop – and delivers toys to kids all over the area.

It’s the annual Orange County Toy Chest – and it’s helped make Christmas possible for thousands of local families.

There are about 10,000 Orange County families that receive services from DSS. The department brings in about 3,000 of those families over a two-day period in December to pick out toys for their children. Toys are donated by local residents, at collection boxes across the county.

This year’s Toy Chest takes place on Saturday, December 19, from 10 am to 6 pm, and Sunday, December 20, from noon to 6 pm. Each family gets to select two to three gifts per child.

Organizers are now seeking toy donations, especially toys suitable for boys and girls ages 6-12. They’re also seeking volunteers to help make the event a reality. (Spanish-speaking volunteers are especially welcome.)

Human services manager Sharron Hinton stopped by WCHL this week and spoke with Aaron Keck.


For more information on the event and how you can get involved, donate or volunteer, visit Hillsborough-NC.ToysForTots.org. You can also contact Hinton by phone at 919-245-2840, or by email at shinton@orangecountync.gov.


BoCC Votes to Fund Childcare From Social Justice Fund

At Tuesday night’s meeting in Chapel Hill, the Orange County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to fund childcare for low-income families.

“Well I’ll make the motion that we transfer $350,000 from the social justice fund to the Department of Social Services for childcare and to allow DSS to utilize any funds within its budget to pay costs for childcare,” said Board Vice-Chair Bernadette Pelissier.

Working parents who meet income requirements may apply for childcare support through the Orange County Department of Social Services. Households must make less than twice the federal poverty level to qualify. The federal poverty level is $23,850 for a four-person household.

State actions this year resulted in a $700,000 loss to the Orange County Department of Social Services. The state also made changes in income eligibility for childcare services. Money from the county’s  social justice fund will help cover childcare for some families who would not have been covered otherwise.

Nancy Coston, director of the Orange County Department of Social Services, said people currently getting childcare support will be kept on at least through June 30, 2015.

Coston spoke about how childcare helps families. “It helps working families know their children are safe so they can go to work,” said Coston. “But it also keeps kids in an area where they can be developing appropriately.”

Also, the department will clear the waiting list for childcare services because many on the list are no longer available and the long list slows the process.

“We know that when we do clear the waiting list, we do generate interest in childcare because a lot of people do get very discouraged about the waiting list and just don’t bother to put their names on,” said Coston.

After the transfer, $100,000 will be left in the county’s social justice fund.


Toy Chest Drive Now Accepting Donations

CHAPEL HILL – The Orange Department of Social Services needs your help for its annual Toy Chest drive running December 14-16.

The program provides an opportunity for low-income parents to select two to three gifts per child with the hope that every child in Orange County has a present to open during the holidays.

Sharron Hinton, DSS Human Services Manager, says that for three days, the DSS office will turn into Santa’s Workshop for the children to enjoy.

“All toys that are donated here stay here in Orange County for our children,” Hinton says. “The Toy Chest has just grown in volumes over the years. Last year we served more than 3,300 children with about 10,000 toys that we collected through the Toy Chest.”

Hinton says there are more than 7,000 children in Orange County living in low-income households.

The Toy Chest serves children age 18 and under but focuses on children under age 12.

Hinton says parents can be referred from Social Services, churches, and other agencies that serve low-income families.

Collection boxes will be placed at various locations throughout Orange County, and the public can drop off donations until Friday, December 13.

“Through our donations from Toys for Tots, we have about 50-75 collection boxes throughout the community. Individuals are encouraged to drop off a toy at any of those collection sites or at our offices here in Hillsborough or the one in Chapel Hill,” Hinton says. “In addition to the toys, we also collect donations for folks who don’t like to shop or don’t know what to purchase. We will accept those donations , and then we will do the shopping for you.”

The DSS office is located next to the Dollar Tree in the Hillsborough Commons shopping center.