My friends, I have been blessed to be part of a wonderful outreach program at my church this year.
This program is called Karen's Kids.
Karen's Kids was started by a lovely member of our church many years ago. She wanted to help some of the less fortunate kids in our community. When the program started, they served just a handful of kids; less than 10.
Oh my, I guess I should tell you what this program is exactly.
Well through donations from church members, whether it be clothing, toys, money...Kids in our community are able to have presents under the Christmas tree.
Karen's kids works in conjunction with other Secret Santa types of organizations in our neighborhood so one family doesn't get 3x the gifts as another family. And a lot of families get great quality gifts for their kids.
We served 78 families this year.
How does it work?
Well, throughout the year our church members scour clearance racks and super sales to collect the items we will be giving kids for Christmas.
These items are put in a secured storage area as it comes in.
If church members (and anyone who wants to help) don't want to or are unable to shop, they give money. It can be as much or as little as one can afford.
Once school starts back in the fall, the members of Karen's kids begin to take inventory of what we have and what we need. We then take several shopping trips and purchase any additional items that may be needed. We continue to take donations throughout the year...
Then , around the middle of October we begin gathering information for any families who want/need help with Christmas. We usually give a cut-off date by the middle of November.
Then, we pull out all of the toys and clothing we have collected throughout the year and we have giant bags lined up on our church pews. Anyone who helps out gets a slip with the child's name, age, clothing sizes, and a list of items this child likes. Then we "shop" for that kid out of what we have collected over the year.
This year we were able to "spend" $60 on each kid. Now this doesn't sound like much, but remember we collected stuff from clearance racks and after holiday sales. Each kid received 6 or 7 items on average, plus an outfit and a coat or jacket, and a pair of gloves and a hat for winter.
These toys weren't junky dollar store toys either. We had many craft sets, board games, makeup sets, cologne sets, bath sets, toddler kitchen, barbies, bears, legos, well you get the picture.
Once all the kids are "shopped" for we check each one to make sure they have just enough toys, what they wanted, and age appropriate. We then take those toys and put them in that kids bag and store it away until the wrapping party.
The wrapping party is a wonderful fellowship time. Almost every member of our church comes the evening of the wrapping party with a covered dish, wrapping paper, scissors, and name tags. We all eat and then we begin to wrap. Once the all the gifts get wrapped (this year it only took us 2 hours to wrap all the gifts!!!), we have other members dressed up as Santa. Our Santa's (we had 3) then get the address and the gifts for the kids at that residents AND deliver those gifts. Most of the Santa's say the look on the kids faces when they drop off their bag of gifts is amazing.
We had all the gifts wrapped, bagged, and delivered by 9 pm last night. I have to tell you, my heart is filled with so much joy knowing that Christmas was a little brighter for these children.
I am already gearing up for next year. I can't wait to shop for these children.
And I have to say, I love my church. I love the outreach programs our small little church is involved in.
When I prayed for a God to show us a church, it was one of the requirements I had.
Anyway, I wanted to share with you all what has put a little bounce in my step today.
Now I want to put a challenge to anyone out there who reads this post. During the holidays, this year or any year hereafter, while you are doing the shopping for your friends and family, please pick up one or two extra items and donate them. There are so many wonderful organizations who help needy families.
Toys for tots usually has several donation boxes around every neighborhood.
Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful organization. You can make your own boxes or you can go online and pay for a box there.
Check with your local churches and community organizations.
The toys you donate don't have to be super expensive ones. It can be a box of crayons and a coloring book., a $5 toy. Every little bit can go a long way to help a child have a good Christmas.
Until we meet again