The local Christmas for Kids program already is encountering high demand, with nearly twice as many requests for assistance than the program usually receives by this time.
Program founder Debbie Dixon said they have more requests now than they received all of last Christmas season.
“So far we’ve got about 430 kids, and usually right about now is the time of year when they start really pouring in,” Dixon said Tuesday. “There’s going to be a major, major, major demand.
“It’s almost double from what it usually is this time locally. Every morning I get more calls. I’ve already gotten 14 this morning.”
The program provides gifts to children of incarcerated parents. Dixon founded it 22 years ago after she had to spend the holiday without her three daughters because she was incarcerated for six months at Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women for writing bad checks.
Since then, the program has spread into other states, where more than 4,000 children are clients this year, she said. Volunteers in those states operate those programs, while Dixon and local volunteers handle northwest Alabama.
Anyone interested in buying gifts for the children, or contributing monetarily, can call Dixon at 256-443-1297. If you simply want to provide money, an account is set up at all First Metro Bank branches.
“These kids haven’t done anything, and I personally feel like they deserve a beautiful Christmas,” Dixon said.
She said it especially is difficult to find sponsors for older children.
“Everyone wants to take these cute little ones, but the teens really have a rough time,” she said. “We’re dedicating November to trying to get the middle-school and high-school ages covered.
“The older ones, it’s sort of a turning stage for them, and it means a lot to them to know there is someone who cares.”
Dixon said some people have donated gift cards to the teens, and have even gone shopping with them.
Various businesses are coming to the table, Dixon said. She mentioned Martin Supply and SCA Tissue in particular. “They are taking multiple kids.”
She said students at the University of North Alabama have made it a tradition to assist, even after UNA closes for winter break.
Volunteers also can drop off gifts at Sweet Peppers Deli, Mike’s Hidden Treasures or Champy’s Chicken in Muscle Shoals or Pegasus Records in Florence, Dixon said.
Bernie Delinski can be reached at email@example.com.