SHIRLEY -- The Shirley Friendship Fund is currently soliciting applications for food and clothing assistance from those in need during the winter holiday season.
The deadline for completed forms, which are available at shirley-ma.gov/ Pages/ShirleyMA_WebDocs/ friendship2013.pdf, is Nov. 19.
SFF co-Chair Heidi Conley said requests for application forms may also be made by calling her at 978-425-9681 or emailing her at email@example.com. They are also available from the Lura A. White Elementary and Ayer-Shirley Regional Middle School nurses' offices.
"We are alive and doing well," said Conley of the nonprofit organization, now in its 30th year of operation. "Donations are coming in steady and MCI (Massachusetts Correctional Institution) has already been in contact to help us with Christmas."
MCI, she explained, has offered to have a giving tree for employee donations of new toys. Giving trees will also be available at St. Anthony of Padua Church, and the Shirley branches of Fidelity and North Middlesex Savings Banks. The trees' decorations will contain specific requests from families who need help in providing gifts for their children. Anyone wishing to help may take a request, purchase the item and return it to the tree.
SFF financial assistance for families experiencing financial difficulties comes largely from local businesses, residents and fundraisers.
"The funds raised are used to help families and individuals who reside in Shirley who have no other source of assistance," Conley explained.
Once the applications for assistance are reviewed by Conley, co-chair Linda Brackett and assistant Dana Hopf, they are turned over to volunteer "elves," who do the shopping for requested items of food and clothing, and create the gift tags for the giving trees. The donations will be distributed at the Shirley Fire Department, at 8 Leominster Road, on Dec. 23.
"All our helpers are volunteers who take time out of their busy holiday schedule to shop and deliver, and donate a lot of time," Conley said.
She added that each basket donated will contain enough food for two meals. Clothing items that were specifically requested on application forms will again be wrapped in festive holiday paper and bags, along with the toys donated through the giving trees.
Completed application forms must be mailed to Shirley Friendship Fund, P.O. Box 564, Shirley, MA 01464, or left in the Shirley Friendship Fund mailbox at the town offices.
If you would like to help make the holidays merrier for families in Shirley, visit and purchase an item for one of the four giving trees, or contact Brackett at 978-425-9560 or Conley at 425-9681.