With Christmas just weeks away, key seasonal charities have simplifed and streamlined the way people receive assistance.
The new Christmas Giving Program, which fills some of the void left when the long-serving Christmas Bureau disbanded two years ago, will serve as an umbrella organization for applications to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, CFAX Santas Anonymous, the Salvation Army, the Mustard Seed, St. Vincent de Paul and the Sidney Lions Food Bank.
Each of the agencies will use the same application form, with all applications co-ordinated through the Christmas Giving Program.
"It will let us be more efficient about our help," said Times Colonist promotions director Shannon Kowalko.
Each agency fills an important role, from the Salvation Army offering toys for children and family food hampers to the Times Colonist fund assisting families and individuals in need.
The Times Colonist fund has been around since 1956, when it was known as the 500 Fund.
The goal then was to give assistance to 500 of the region's neediest families.
"Last year, we helped over 2,600 people," Kowalko said.
That total included about 800 children, she added.
The official kickoff for the 2012 Times Colonist Christmas Fund will take place next week, Kowalko said. Applications are already available from all participating agencies.
Despite this year's changes, one thing remains constant, Kowalko said.
"We have the opportunity to help because of the generosity of our readers. We're grateful for that."
For more information on applying for help or on how to donate, call the Times Colonist at 250-380-5211.