By Matthew Sotlar
The YWCA Mahoning Valley began a collection of donations in October that will run until Dec. 4 for its Wish Upon a Star program.
Wish Upon a Star started as a way to benefit those in the YWCA Mahoning Valley’s permanent housing program. Toys and monetary donations are collected throughout the year for children who live in the apartments during the holiday season.
The YWCA services over 400 people in Youngstown. The YWCA’s event manager Jessica Gibbs said this is a decline from previous years.
“[YWCA serves] over 400 individuals in our program. This year we have 93 children in the program. This year, our numbers are a little bit down … kids get older … and some of our program’s goals are to have them transition out into permanent housing,” Gibbs said.
The YWCA has different types of housing around Mahoning and Trumbull counties, including transitional housing. The Youngstown branch features the Rayen Avenue Apartments, which has 30 one-bedroom units inside of the YWCA.
While Wish Upon a Star focuses primarily on collecting toys, Gibbs said monetary donations are also accepted.
“Say we get children that enter the program a little bit later, or a child doesn’t get as much as another child, we will supplement with the money and make sure everybody gets about the same. We have about 55 actual donors this year,” Gibbs said.
Youngstown State University is one of the major donors to Wish Upon a Star. Gibbs said many different organizations around the Mahoning Valley area donate to the program.
“YSU has always been a big donor. Others are Poland Presbyterian Church, Poland Cheerleaders. Monetary wise we get a lot of rotary clubs that donate, and mostly individual based donations,” Gibbs said.
Along with collecting toys for the holidays, the YWCA hosts food drives throughout the year to benefit those in its housing program.
“With our Young Women with Bright Futures program, we have a community service project, and we collect canned food donations. Then, we pass them out to everybody in our housing program. Some of the case managers here opt to fill in on the wishlist scarves, gloves, hats, coats [and] stuff like that,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs said while all donations are accepted, parents can also complete a wishlist for their children.
“We have the parents fill out a wishlist for each of their children, so they can fill in whatever they think their children need or whatever their children want, and then donors are able to buy from that list, or they use their judgment to purchase what they think is necessary,” Gibbs said.
All donations for Wish Upon a Star are due by Dec. 4. The YWCA accepts general donations year-round.
“We’re always looking for donors. Whether it’s Wish Upon a Star or whether it’s a general donation that somebody would like to donate to the YWCA, we’re grateful for anything and everything,” Gibbs said.
Those interested in donating can visit the YWCA website.