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Effingham Adopt a Family delivers Christmas cheer
Coldwell Banker Intercoastal Realty's Sherry Murphy sports a big smile while delivering a box of gifts to the Effingham Victim Witness Awareness Program office. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
I don't know if they know how much of a blessing this is to those people who have had a really difficult year.
Fran Ross, Effingham Victim Witness Awareness Program advocate

RINCON — Even though they are too tall to be called elves, they qualify for the gift-giving job in every other way.

A local collection of real estate agents, lenders and attorneys — called Effingham Adopt a Family — works annually to ensure that some of Effingham County's most troubled children receive Christmas presents. 

The group delivered a huge stash of toys and other items to the Effingham Victim Witness Awareness Program (EVWAP) office and Family Promise of Effingham County for distribution on Friday.

"They are a huge blessing," EVWAP advocate Fran Ross said as she watched the cheery donors unload their vehicles.

EVWAP provides advocacy assistance to victims and witnesses of violent crimes. Ten EVWAP families will be impacted by this year's donations.

"That is much more than we usually have," Ross said. "Usually, we have about six."

The majority of EVWAP's aid — about 61 percent — is directed toward those impacted by domestic violence.  It frequently provides emergency financial assistance for victims who are rendered homeless.

"I don't know if the how much of a blessing this is to those people who have had a really difficult year," Ross said. "It's never just one thing. It's never just somebody beating on you.

"There's mental health and abuse, drug abuse and abuse, alcoholism and abuse."

Ross said it is always emotional when the gifts are handed out. They givers frequently cry as much as the recipients.

"They are usually so touched and moved by it," Ross said. "The most common thing we hear is, 'I don't know what to say!' "

Tara Robinson, associate broker at Re/Max 1st Choice, has been the chair of Effingham Adopt a Family for five years.

"We try to provide all the gifts on these kids' wish lists," she said. "Our team does a fantastic job and I couldn't be more proud of them."

The donors aren't content to just fulfill the children's dreams. They try to exceed them.

"Every year, they go over and above," Robinson said. "There is normally a surprise or two in there. This year's surprise is from our lenders and attorneys.

"They provided gift cards so that moms and dads can shop for their own kids."

Because of privacy concerns, Effingham Adopt a Family participants don't get to meet the families they help. They are heartened, however, by the stories they hear from EVWAP and Family Promise officials.

Ross and Family Promise Executive Director Leah Kessler keep Robinson's group aware of their organization's needs. Family Promise serves homeless women and children 

"We just love to provide for them every year," Robinson said.