Samaritan House starts holiday drives early


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Employees of the Samaritan House, a health and human services non-profit that assists thousands of residents in San Mateo County each year, said they already have 30 percent more needy families registered to receive items than they did at this time in 2008.

Collection bins are currently available for businesses, community groups, schools and religious organizations to set up. The group has been looking for holiday drive partners since October.

Samaritan House has seen a 34 percent increase in service requests overall, and up to 76 percent more requests in areas such as free meals, said Sharon Petersen, director of program operations.

"That seems to be a valid number that we think is going to hold," Petersen said. "We're trying to prepare to respond to a 30 percent increase over what we did last year."

Housing, clothing and medical attention are all in high demand from the group, she said.

Last year, Samaritan House collected and distributed 20,000 toys at Christmas and gave out 14,000 pounds of fruit, 750 turkeys and 750 chickens over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Collecting 30 percent more materials this year is daunting, Petersen said.

"I am always nervous," she said. "But we've never failed to make sure everyone got food and toys, and I'm hoping this year will not be any different."

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