Safe Harbor Holiday Program gifting to families in need

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – The Safe Harbor Holiday Program ran from December 17, 18 and 19 between 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. The nonprofit took donations for families that have experienced domestic abuse.

An employee of one of the company donors, J. Freeman & Associates, Jodi Panagakos said she was happy to do her part.

“I mean, I just had a great time shopping for these kids and trying to pick up things that I thought they might like. So, I mean it was just joyful for me to do this,” Panagakos said.

Long time volunteer, nearly 18 years, Norma Guzzardo, said she’s always happy and surprised at the number of people who give each year.

Safe Harbor runs shelters in three separate counties: Greenville (their largest), Anderson and Oconee.

During this holiday season, the organization is housing more than 60 women and children that are survivors of domestic abuse.

Those families have left their situations, some had next to nothing, but they’ll need something for Christmas.

Greenville County House Manager, Kathlyn Jackson, explained that they’re grateful for the toys.

One anonymous donor gave over 40 bikes and helmets for the children.But, Jackson said, the donations don’t have to be toys.

“We’re in need of ladies pajamas, children pajamas, bedroom slippers, any household goods,” Jackson said,”gift cards are always a great help.”

Central Michigan University students helped Safe Harbor run its program.

The students spent a week in the Upstate helping the nonprofit however they could. Under Guzzardo’s guidance, the group grew close while helping those in need.

Students put gifts in black plastic bags, to keep the gifts a true Christmas secret, for each Safe Harbor family.

Their volunteer work is part of the university program “Alternative Breaks”.

Norma Guzzardo posing with the Central Michigan University students

Aaron Nowak & Sarah Cortez said their volunteer group had an amazing time volunteering with Safe Harbor.

“We’ve been able to work with shelters work at the toy exchange program. You know, work in just so many different parts and kind of just see the whole experience come together,” Nowak said.

Cortez explained that giving up a small part of their holiday break to help others is part of a bigger plan.

“We’re trying to develop everyone into an active citizen, that eventually leads us to serving our communities as life long partners,” Cortez said.

Jackson said on average, Safe Harbor helps between 400 to 600 families a year. She said gifts that aren’t used for Christmas, will be used for other occasions.

“We help out every day, like 7 days a week. Our shelter remains open 24 hours a day. So, it is a great need for domestic violence in the community,” Jackson said.

While the Holiday Program drive has ended, Safe Harbor will take donations at the Resale Shop, at 2111 N Pleasantburg Dr, Greenville, SC 29609.

For more information about Safe Harbor, click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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