Westport has taken the wraps off the annual town-sponsored Holiday Giving program to benefit residents in need.

"Over the years, the generosity of volunteer donors has made the holidays brighter for hundreds of children, families and seniors in our town," said Barbara Butler, the town human services director.

"Foreclosures, layoffs and reduced work hours have hit our community hard so the need for voluntary contributions to help our own neighbors has become even more critical."

Following established income guidelines for Westport Warm-Up Fund eligibility, the Human Services Department serves largely as a facilitator, allowing Westport residents who wish to give to do so, while protecting the confidentiality of both the donor and receiver.

"Donations at any level will be greatly appreciated and could range from helping to fill the gift choices of a small child to sponsorship of an entire family," Butler said in a statement. "Some of the most appreciated donations are gift cards for food, gas and discount department stores. In addition tax-deductible contributions are gratefully accepted as they allow fulfillment of last-minute requests."

Westport residents and organizations who wish to donate to this effort are urged to call the Department of Human Services at 203-341-1069 as soon as possible, in order to allow the staff to plan accordingly.

Families who feel they will need extra support during the coming holiday season should also contact the department at 203-341-1069.

This program has developed largely in response to calls from Westport residents and organizations who wish to share their holiday spirit with others less fortunate.

Over the years, the community has given generously with many individuals, garden and book clubs, scout troops, schools, churches and businesses participating in the program--many of them year after year.

"To all of these individuals and organizations, the department expresses heartfelt appreciation for demonstrating that Westport is indeed a caring and generous community," Butler said.