Stores in the community are bustling, churches groups are preparing their Christmas programs and the downtown has been lit all sure signs that the holidays are officially in full swing.

This time of year brings with it hope and happiness but for many it also brings feelings of helplessness and anxiety. For families that can't afford Christmas gifts for their children or even the most basic of holiday dinners, the season is not something to look forward to.

"We have families that come to us because they are looking for not only help but also hope. They know their families will be disappointed and for most parents it is an awful feeling," said Jo Wesley, executive director of Helping Hands of Ennis.

The agency does its part every year by acting as the go-between for families that need assistance and for those that would like to help out. This year however, the need is great but the number of families signing up to adopt those in need is not.

"I think the full week after Thanksgiving has fooled people into thinking that the holidays are still a long way off but the reality is they are here and so is the need for families to be adopted. The spirit of the holidays is here and the time to be thinking about helping out is also here," Wesley said.

Currently, the agency has a total of 221 families signed up to be adopted, which includes 504 children. Only 15 families have been adopted so far.

"Our agency works with the compassion and emotion of Christmas every day but now we are asking for the community to put the holidays at the forefront of their thoughts and remember those that need help this year. We are very blessed to live in a community that takes care of each other and we always enjoyed the support of the community. We are asking for that support again especially through the holiday season," she said.

Making sure the children on the list of people to be adopted are taken care of is of utmost importance to a lady known only as "Santa Mama." Santa Mama is the woman that keeps the database that matches the families to be adopted and their needs with what comes in. She is particularly concerned this year because of the high number of children still waiting to be adopted.

"I am not sure why things are moving so slowly right now but I hope it picks up because I don't want to have a list of children that didn't get anything for Christmas. It is a joy for me when I can put a check beside each child's name knowing that this year, Christmas was something they looked forward to. It isn't a pleasant thought to think of things any other way," she said.

For service groups or individuals that wish to adopt families for Christmas the staff at Helping Hands is ready to match up donations to families in need.

"I think the thing we would like everyone to remember is that no one is asking anyone to do it all themselves. We are grateful for any contribution and if someone wants to give from one of the three groups, we will take any donation of food, clothes or toys," Wesley said.

Due to the Tots for Tots toy drive at area schools, gifts are handed out before school lets out for the holidays so there is a sense of urgency in adopting families. The staff at Helping Hands hopes to wrap up the campaign by the beginning of next week. To learn more about adopting a family contact Helping Hands of Ennis at (972) 875-0218.