By Lisa Kochanowski
SOUTH BEND — “An 11-year-old girl with a birthday just before Christmas had never celebrated with a party or gifts due to her family’s financial situation. Thanks to a generous sponsor, she was able to celebrate her birthday for the first time with a cake and gifts (a pair of roller skates and a doll). The sponsor also provided Christmas gifts for her,” recalled Claire Coleman, West Region Administrator of Catholic Charities about a memorable moment during the Christmas program.
Each year, Catholic Charities holds a Christmas program where they seek individuals, families, businesses and other organizations to share their good fortune with the less fortunate by serving as family or contributing sponsors.
Family sponsors provide toys and clothing for specific families based upon a list of suggestions provided by Catholic Charities. Contributing sponsors provide gift cards or monetary support, which is then pooled together to supply food and satisfy the other needs of families enrolled in the Christmas Program.
According to Coleman, Catholic Charities has two Christmas projects: one for families with children under age 12 and one for seniors.
“The goal of the Family Christmas Program is to provide holiday comfort and hope to families in need, especially for young children who still believe in Santa Claus,” said Coleman.
The Family Program gives current agency clients of other programs who are especially in need, a chance to be recommended for the Christmas Program by staff, or families are able to add their own names to a waiting list.
Coleman said there are two ways that people in the community can help with the Family Christmas Program: 1) families can serve as a contributing sponsor by providing monetary assistance or by donating items, such as new toys or clothing, or 2) donors can elect to serve as a sponsor for a specific family in need. Sponsors purchase items on a list provided and bring the gifts to Catholic Charities.
Some sponsors also choose to provide gift certificates for food or personal care items. Some sponsors also make the kind gesture to include wrapping paper so the parent of the children can feel like they participated in the gift giving by wrapping the gifts even if they could not afford to make the purchases themselves.
“The goal of the senior Christmas Program is to let seniors who may be alone at the holidays and may not celebrate Christmas, know that they are in our thoughts and prayers and not forgotten,” said Coleman.
For the senior Christmas Program, clients of other Catholic Charities programs who are especially in need may be recommended by a staff person or seniors may ask to have their name added to the waiting list.
Coleman said the senior Christmas Program provides a packet of food beyond the normal food pantry service and personal care items. They usually try to include special items like coffee as well as one or two small gifts.
Members of the community who would like to help with this program can make monetary donations or donate items to be included in the packages. Some of the items that are appreciated include gloves and hats, postage stamps, crossword puzzle books and slippers.
“A senior who had previously visited the food pantry was recommended for our Christmas Program and when he came to pick up his Christmas package, we learned that although he was living on a very limited income, he had given shelter to his granddaughter and her children,” recalled Coleman. “Fortunately, a contributing sponsor had brought in a few toys the day before and we were able to assist the family.”
Monetary donations can be mailed or dropped off at 1817 Miami St., South Bend, IN 46613. Contributing sponsors can drop off material donations in any quantity at the Miami Street location Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. or Friday 8 a.m. until noon. For more information or to sponsor a specific family in need contact Barbara Burlingham at (574) 234-3111.
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