CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. -- The Catawba County Christmas Bureau is in need of some help.

Each year, the Christmas Bureau provides free gifts to families who need help, but this year 200 additional families have applied to the program for gifts.

I think last year the economy was tough and this year it is tougher for some families, said Sylvia Long of the United Way of Catawba County.

The Christmas Bureau is a collaborative effort by many of the social service agencies that are part of the United Way.

The Salvation Army purchases toys from the kettle collections and collects toys through its Angel Tree program. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots also are distributed through the Christmas Bureau.

Buying toys for young kids is tough enough but finding items that teenagers would enjoy, like electronics and sports equipment, is even tougher at a time when money is tight.

Area businesses are trying to help.

We've established relationships with some of the retail outlets here in Hickory that give us some really deep discounts, Long said.

The Christmas Bureau will open in just three weeks. Long says she hopes it will be able to help every family that has applied, but says right now it is the Bureau itself that needs help in making those Christmas wishes come true.

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