PREBLE COUNTY — Preble County Christmas for Kids served 562 children on the program’s distribution day, held on Friday, Dec. 13.
Organizers are still working on serving families on the waiting list with the remaining gift donations. They have already served 88 children on the waiting list and will serve more.
According to United Way Preble County Director Alexa Joyce, the group still has 36 families remaining on the “to be served” list. This is a mixture of registered families who couldn’t come on distribution day and wait-listed families.
Christmas for Kids is a program which aims to assist Preble County families in poverty with providing toys for their children on Christmas morning. Families are asked to register throughout the month of November, providing proof of their income and need.
“Our hope is that this is a supplemental program for our families who are struggling to make ends meet. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, a big expense at Christmas can be very hard to manage sometimes. Our hope is that this is supplemental, but we do know that for a lot of our families this is all they’re able to do for their kids,” Joyce said.
Previously, families would register on a single day at a specified location. The committee found that many families had a hard time getting transportation or were working. Last year, they opened registration for the entire month of November at various locations.
Joyce explained, “We’re really trying to make it accessible for all of our families, make it easy for them, give them more time to [register]. I think that has helped a lot of our families.”
According to Joyce, at last count they had over 2,250 gifts donated this year, however, more presents were donated after that count as well. On distribution day, children ages zero to six received four toys each and children ages seven and up received three toys each.
The program needs all donations, big and small. Some organizations donate 10 toys and some donate 200. There are many churches, banks, small businesses, restaurants, and other organizations who donate toys for Christmas for Kids.
After toys are donated from various community partners, it is time to sort and distribute the toys. The committee gathers volunteers for two sorting days and one distribution day.
On the sorting days, volunteers come to collect donated toys and sort them into the different age groups. On the distribution day, families are given the opportunity to shop for their kids and choose what toys they would like most.
“Distribution day is something I wish every person who donated to this program could experience, so they could see and feel the gratitude expressed from the families as they shop for their children. I wish they could see the father who lights up with excitement when he finds the exact LOL Surprise doll that was at the top of his daughter’s wish list that he didn’t know how he was going to be able to provide,” Joyce said.
“I wish they could feel the sheer relief they have provided to the parents who have never had to ask for help before, but fell on hard times, as this program is the only way they could provide Christmas this year. I wish they could feel the positive impact they have made on the grandparent who lost their child and is now raising their grandchildren, who didn’t save enough to raise children during retirement, let alone provide a Christmas too. Every family we serve has a unique story and situation, and to witness our community rally around them to ensure the children experience the magic of Christmas morning, is something that humbles me every year.”
Joyce believes this program is necessary for the community because it is all about providing a “magical” Christmas for the children of Preble County. No child should go without a happy holiday, and Preble County Christmas for Kids is dedicated to making that happen.
“Regardless of why their parents are in this situation, we all believe that none of our children in this community should wake up with anything less than a magical Christmas morning. We just want to make sure all of our children are served and they all have a happy holiday,” she said.
For families who received gifts on distribution day, Preble County Christmas for Kids is truly life changing.
Parents of two children, ages seven and 14, said, “This is the first year we have ever had to have this kind of help. We were so blown away by the options we could choose from to find things our children will love. Right now, we are just making ends meet to provide food and keep utilities on. We thought Christmas would have to go on the back burner this year and we had no idea what to do for Christmas help. We are so thankful to be able to have gifts under our tree from ‘Santa.’ This program is a true blessing for us this Christmas season.”
A caretaker of three children, ages eight through 10, said, “We are so grateful for this program and how many kids it helps. We love how we are able to come and ‘shop’ for things that our kids will want. We have had to use this program before and that year we won an Easy Bake Oven raffle prize. Our kids still play with it and have made many memories with it.”
A grandmother of a two year old said, “I am raising my grandson because his father passed away this year. I never thought I would be raising a child at this point in my life and wasn’t prepared to financially. You helping me has made this holiday a little less sad for me, as it’s the first Christmas without my son, because now I can make it a happy Christmas for his son.”
Joyce expressed her gratitude for everyone who helped to make 2019 another successful year for Preble County Christmas for Kids.
“I want to give a sincere heartfelt thank you to: Committee members (Amy Raynes with Mental Health and Recovery Board (MHRB), Courtney Griffith with the YWCA, Amanda Kopf with the YWCA, Allie Shafer Success Liaison, Heather Ludy Success Liaison, Leslie Bassler Success Liaison, Christine Wilson Success Liaison, April Gross Success Liason , Janelle Caron Miami Valley Community Action Partnership (MVCAP), and Lauren Robinson Preble County District Library) who give so much of their time to making this happen, registration locations (United Way, MHRB, Success Liaisons at each school district, MVCAP, Headstart, and Preble County Educational Service Center) who help make this program accessible to the families, the 70-plus volunteers who donated their time to sorting and distributing gifts, the many businesses, organizations, churches and individuals who donated to this program, and Preble County Youth Foundation for acting as the fiscal agent for this program,” she said.
“Without the gracious support of our community, we could not do this program – it is made possible 100 percent through community donations.”
If people are interested in donating to Preble County Christmas for Kids, Joyce urges everyone to keep them in mind for next year, as they do not have any space to store toys throughout the year. However, they can take financial contributions anytime. Checks should be made out to Preble County Youth Foundation. Money raised is used to purchase toys for age groups which need more than what is donated.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH