MANATEE — The voices on the other end of the phone are hesitant, embarrassed. There are more of them, too. Many are men, recently laid off.
It is just one sign of the difficult times, say volunteers at Adopt-A-Family, the program that has provided gifts to lower-income families at Christmas for the past 26 years.
Mary Jane Shiplett, a volunteer for 14 years, has taken a number of those calls at the programs headquarters at 7455 15th St. E., Suite 111, Bradenton.
"If I ask, 'Are you employed? theres a hesitancy," she said. "The ones who've been unemployed some time know the routine. But the new ones, theyll say, 'This is all new for me. I'm doing what I can, but I can't find a job.' I tell them, "We understand. Thats why were here."
Last year the organization took care of a record 1,600 families &mash; representing 4,500 children. They screened candidates for five weeks.
This year is expected to surpass that number, even though the screening period has been shortened to three weeks.
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