Families in Montgomery County got a big lift just before Christmas, thanks to the efforts of volunteers and staff of Catholic Social Services’ Family Service Center in Norristown, the county seat.

The St. Nicholas Store at the center gave out donated gifts to 140 families and 331 children, with another 49 families receiving food from the center’s food cupboard, for two hours last Thursday evening, Dec. 20.

Organizers estimate each child received a gift valued at $60, for a total of $19,860 in gifts.

But the center’s director, Elizabeth Peteraf, said “the goodwill generated was truly priceless.”

Twenty-five volunteers from Catholic parishes and schools plus other organizations in the county helped make the effort a success.

They included the Good Samaritan group from St. Genevieve Parish in Flourtown that directed traffic and the youth ministry group from Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in Plymouth Meeting, whose teenagers helped out in any way needed.

Also present were the East Norriton Township police, a local Boy Scouts troop that donated 20 Christmas trees for families and the Norristown Advocacy Group on Hunger.

In addition, three regional Catholic schools – Mater Dei in Lansdale, Holy Cross in Collegeville and Holy Rosary in Plymouth Meeting – donated all the toys and a local ShopRite supermarket provided cookies for the event.

Peteraf thanked her three-person staff and all the volunteers for working on the St. Nicholas Store, which succeeded the former Operation Santa Claus gift-giving event.

“You cannot pull off something of this magnitude without everyone on board,” she said. “There was an incredible energy and positive feeling.”