PAINESVILLE, Ohio (WJW) – Christmas is still several weeks away, but the clock is ticking for Asa’s Angels of Hope nonprofit in Painesville.

Founder Asa Cox says the challenging economy has led to more families seeking help this holiday with fewer people donating.

More than 1,800 children have signed up, but they only have gifts right now for about 300.

“The need is huge this year,” said Asa. “And they’re not asking for Playstations and TVs, they’re wanting the basics underwear, socks and coats.”

Asa’s own childhood inspired her to start the charity about 17 years ago. Her father died before she was born and her mother could only afford used items from garage sales.

Asa was grateful, but also determined to provide a different holiday experience for struggling families.

“I wanted to give back because I never really had a real Christmas,” said Asa.

Asa’s Angels carefully “vets” families to ensure they aren’t “double dipping” with other charities and to confirm the need. She says the need is great.

Some of the letters to Santa are heartbreaking. Many are asking for necessities like toiletries, cleaning supplies and undergarments, with more than 100 kids dreaming of a bed or just sheets.

“Today one said a warm blanket. Well, you know they’re cold if they’re asking for a warm blanket, not just a blanket,” said Asa. “One little boy, all he had were blankets rolled up and he was sleeping on the floor.”

The kids range in age from infants to 16. However, those with special needs can be any age.

The families are all from Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties.

The parents are always part of the process because she says they’re all hardworking and deserve to experience the joy of providing for their children.

“That’s why we let the parents wrap their own gifts,” she said. “They actually cry when they come in, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, you got all of this for my child.”’

There are multiple ways to donate.

Unwrapped new gifts and clothing can be dropped off at Asa’s Angels at 2709 N. Ridge Road in Painesville.

They especially need items for teenage girls, and boys shoes in size 13 and up.

People can also go to the Asa’s Angels of Hope Facebook page and select a child to sponsor from the site.

Cash contributions are also being accepted and matched by some companies, including Enterprise Title Agency.

Asa says every little bit helps and even $5 would be greatly appreciated. 

“I’m not asking for just one item per child. Even a little item, coloring books, crayons, anything you can afford would make a big difference in our organization,” said Asa.

The deadline is Dec. 19.

“We want to make it exciting for them for Santa to come on Christmas morning,” she said.