As the hustle and bustle of the holiday season quickly approaches, many area residents are faced with tough times as they struggle to make ends meet.

Jill Scott, executive director of H.O.P.E., Inc., a Stephenville based non-profit organization that helps those in need, spoke with the Empire-Tribune in September and said the organization was also struggling to keep food on the shelves.

"We need food staples," Scott said, adding that H.O.P.E. formerly served an estimated 200 families per month but is now serving closer to 300.

On Friday, Scott said donations increased following the appeal to area residents.

"When the community heard we were struggling, we received tremendous support," Scott said.

But she also said with holidays on the horizon, H.O.P.E. is anticipating the number of families needing help will continue to increase.   

"For many families, this is the toughest time of the year," Scott said.

Scott said as students enjoy respite from the halls of education during Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, many parents and caregivers will have to take on the added expense of feeding their children, who rely on free and reduced meals while school is in session. She said the increased grocery bills and other holiday related expenses, such as childcare, can really add a burden to struggling families.

While most families are hit with added expenses in November and December, Scott remains hopeful that area donors will continue to give so H.O.P.E. can continue to say they have never had to turn away anyone needing assistance.

Nonperishable food items, such as rice, beans, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese are always needed to keep the shelves stocked and local families fed. Monetary donations are also accepted.

Scott is encouraging families who are struggling to call H.O.P.E. for help. To receive assistance, proof of residency such as an electric bill and proof of income must be presented. Scott said assistance is based on income and the number of people in a household.

H.O.P.E. is located at 1617 E. Washington Street in Stephenville, and hours of operation are 9 a.m. - noon Monday through Friday.  

For more information, call the organization at 965-2700.