Christmas trees are a staple of the holiday season. While sentimental ornaments often adorn family trees, ornaments on the trees at some parishes and businesses in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend aim to help families in need.
A program administered by Catholic Charities of Fort Wayne-South Bend gives a helping hand to families in need during the Christmas season. This social service arm of the diocese facilitates a charity gift program for those who struggle to provide Christmas presents for their children.
Claire Coleman, a Regional Director for Catholic Charities, says that the program generally begins with an internal referral: families who already participate in other services offered by Catholic Charities.
“We also receive referrals from parishes. Then, if we have remaining spots, we open it up to the public – people who just happen to call us for Christmas assistance.”
Those who are referred for the Christmas program meet with a case manager and complete an assessment to make sure that they are qualified, allowing Catholic Charities to learn more about the family in the process. The families are also introduced to the other services that Catholic Charities provides throughout the rest of the year.
Some sponsors who contribute to the program will use a “giving tree” model. They hang ornaments that list an item to donate, and parishioners or employees will donate the needed items. The parish or business sends these items to Catholic Charities, which facilitates distribution to the families.
Other sponsors in the West Region, Coleman says, prefer to be matched with a child.
“What we do is we provide anonymous information about the children, such as their gender and their age, and some of their likes and dislikes, to the sponsors. Then they will purchase items for the children and drop them off here at Catholic Charities. We sort them into family packages, and then we distribute them to the family.”
Coleman also noted that this entire process takes place within just six weeks, “but we get it done.”
Catholic Charities provides
the gifts to the parents unwrapped so that they can still participate in gift-giving by wrapping the presents for their children.
“I have seen people be really, really overwhelmed with the generosity of others, which is always nice – not expected at all – but always nice when that happens. I have seen folks who have been clients in the past, who turned around later when things were better for them and have helped others.”
The benefits of the Christmas program extend beyond the holiday season. For some families, this program is their first interaction with Catholic Charities. A number of these families will continue to take advantage of the aid offered by the organization, something they might not have otherwise encountered if not for the holiday assistance program.
In addition, the program gives parishioners in the diocese the annual opportunity to learn more about the services offered through Catholic Charities, and what they can do to help.
“Anytime we get an opportunity to interact with folks and tell them about what we do, we’re excited to do that. And this is just one way that they can participate in the work that we’re doing.”
Catholic Charities is the social services arm of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. The organization offers a number of stability, counseling, migration, and pro-life services throughout the entire year. Contributing to the Catholic Charities Christmas program is a way to directly assist those in need this holiday season.
For more information about Catholic Charities or to make a donation, visit their website at ccfwsb.org.
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