The town's Department of Human Services is has launched its annual Holiday Giving Program for residents.

"Over the years, the generosity of volunteer donors has made the holidays brighter for hundreds of children, families and seniors in our town," Barbara Butler, the town's human services director, said in a press release announcing the program. "We hope that Westporters will continue to support their neighbors, as our department continues to see residents coping with foreclosures, layoffs and reduced work hours."

Following the eligibility guidelines established for Westport Warm-Up Fund, the Human Services Department serves largely as a facilitator, allowing for the confidentiality of both the gift donors and receivers.

"Some of the most appreciated gifts are grocery and gas gift cards of any amount, as well as gift cards to local stores where residents may shop," Butler said. "In addition, cash donations are always welcome as they allow for the purchase of last-minute gift cards for clients. "

Checks may be made payable to "DHS Family Programs" with "Holiday" on the memo line and may be mailed or dropped off in Room 200 at Town Hall. If a donor wants to shop for a family's gift requests, this can also be accommodated at whatever level the donor feels comfortable.

The program was developed largely in response to calls from Westport residents and organizations interested in supporting people in need over the holiday season. Over the years, support for the project has come from individuals, clubs, schools, churches, book clubs and businesses participating in the program -- many of them making annual donations.

Westport residents and organizations who wish to donate to the project should contact Patty Haberstroh at hsyouth@westportct.gov or 341-1069 as soon as possible.

People who feel they will need extra support during the coming holiday season should also contact the department at 341-1050.