Citing increased need, Wake County’s Holiday Cheer Program holding summer donation drive ::

For the first time in its 25 year history, Wake County’s Holiday Cheer Program is hosting a summer donation drive. Organizers said they expect the need to be higher than ever before the upcoming holiday season.

The program delivers Thanksgiving meals and holiday gifts to those in need.

Aryn Banks is the Wake County’s seasonal project coordinator.

“Every year our need has increased,” Banks said.

She’s fundraising early on Christmas in July, hoping to reach more families.

“You are a participant in something that is changing somebody’s life, and that’s something that you can’t put a price tag on,” she said.

Last year, the organization served 2,000 people.

“Surprisingly, what happened with the first part of COVID, is we had sponsors coming out of the woodwork,” Banks said. “A lot of people had weathered the pandemic and wanted to help out.”

However, some of those sponsors are now in a different situation.

“What we’re finding now is that those people who were doing so well off — some of them are now in need of help themselves because some of those bonuses to make it through COVID have subsided,” Banks said.

“Families who were once income secure are no longer in that situation. They may be able to help themselves and their family, but they don’t have that extra to give to our families, so we’re losing some sponsors because of that.”

At the Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina, they’re seeing a higher number of people in need as well.

“Folks are paying more for gas; they’re paying more for rent, for utilities and I think we’re seeing about 10% more at the grocery store,” said Jessica Slider Whichard. “People whose budgets were already stretched really thin — that’s going to have an immediate impact.”

Whichard said changes in the economy affect their clients fastest and longest.

“Where it gets challenging I think is that we’ve seen some changes in the federal programs that were stood up for XOCIS, and so with those kind of being sunsetted, or shifted or changed, that influx of food is a little different.”


The food bank is expecting an increase in people in need over the coming months.

“Budgets that are stretched, there’s less accommodation for that sort of thing in the holiday season,” Whichard said. “You add this kind of 30% or so increase in need over COVID-19 levels that we’re currently seeing going into the holiday months, it does get busier.”

The food bank is always accepting donations — they have a money matching program running through the end of July, and they also accept food donations. You can learn more about how to help here.

Wake County’s Holiday Cheer program is currently accepting gift card and monetary donations. You can also sign up to adopt a family, but you won’t be connected with them until later in there year. You can learn more here.

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