Changes Meant To Instill Pride Back To Those In Need
Darren Doyle, story:
For many years, Edmonson County Family Resource-Youth Services Centers have overseen a benefit Christmas program for local students in need called The Angel Tree. This program provides Christmas gifts and necessities to Edmonson County school students of all grades that are in need. The program is funded strictly from donations and many of the workers that make the program a success are volunteers; however, after a deep look at the program and a desire to improve the way it works, local school officials, community leaders, and a host of volunteers have joined together to better serve families in Edmonson County.
The program will now operate under the name "Edmonson County Affordable Christmas," and will work the same when it comes to receiving monetary gifts and donations; however, the revamped program has undergone some other major changes.
Family Resource Center Coordinator for Kyrock Elementary and South Edmonson Alicia Edwards says the program changes are intended to empower low income families with the opportunity to purchase gifts at a cost of only $5 per child; the purpose of which is to allow parents to shop for gifts for their children with dignity, not simply participate in a handout program.
"Put yourself in the parents' shoes," she said. "Imagine being handed gifts that you didn't choose, that you didn't purchase, and have someone say, 'here, these are for your kids.' While parents are thankful to receive these gifts, we want to put the power back into the hands of parents that need a helping hand but instill some pride into the process."
Brownsville Missionary Baptist Church, a co-sponsor of the program, has taken an active role in helping with the setup of the program.
"Parents will be able to purchase their own gifts and see to the individual needs of their own children," said church pastor John Chidester. "The system we have now is not working as it should. The whole purpose is to help families, but we feel like we can help them better if we allow them to help themselves."
Donations of cash, toys, school supplies, personal hygiene, and clothing will be accepted in the same manner as always, and there will be an annual shopping date for program workers and volunteers (to be scheduled) to purchase additional items using the cash donations, however, those items won't be handed out like in times past.
The items will be compiled in the first-ever "Affordable Christmas Store," which will be assembled at the EC 5/6 Center and is currently scheduled for a December 7th shopping day. Inventory will be assorted on tables and racks just like any other store. For $5 per child, a qualifying parent can shop through the store and buy gifts up to $125 value, which will include three $10 toys, two $20 toys, and one $30-$40 toy, in addition to underwear, socks, shirt, pants, and a coat. If donations allow, the child will also receive a pair of shoes. Coordinators say this will eliminate the inconsistencies in the way the former program worked.
"There will be the same quality and quantity of gifts as always," said Edwards. "But kids in the same households will now receive equal gifts because the parents will be choosing those, not volunteers or program workers. This will allow much more of a level playing field."
In addition to the local FRYSC and Brownsville Missionary, other co-sponsors of the annual program are:
All co-sponsors are local groups and organizations; however, the Edmonson County FRYSC wanted to be clear that this program will not affect other local charity programs.
On the shopping day for parents, kids will be brought into a play/activity area while parents do the shopping and will be provided snacks and child care.
In addition to monetary and item donations, the FRYSC is also asking for gift wrap, boxes, gift bags, and tape, as parents and volunteers will also wrap the gifts after purchasing.
Morgan Esters, Youth Services Coordinator for ECMS-ECHS said the program requires a minimum of $20,000 in donations to serve the 100-150 Edmonson County kids that benefit.
For more information about donating items, cash, or your time to the program, you can email:
Alicia Edwards: firstname.lastname@example.org
Morgan Esters: email@example.com
Sharon Brooks: firstname.lastname@example.org
*10/04/19: this article was edited to clarify quotes from program administrators