Seeing requests that numbered well beyond 500 before Thanksgiving, officials with the Christmas for Kids program are sending out pleas for volunteers to make sure every child is sponsored.
The program, which provides Christmas gifts for children of incarcerated parents, is getting nearly twice as many requests for assistance than it usually receives by Thanksgiving. And there’s more than a month to go until Christmas.
Program founder Debbie Dixon said the day after Thanksgiving traditionally is a major shopping day. It also serves as an opportunity to join the program.
“Hopefully, people will remember us on Black Friday so kids don’t have a blue Christmas,” Dixon said.
Anyone interested in buying gifts for the children, or even 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.
The program allows incarcerated parents to help make a list of Christmas gifts for their children. That way, the parents are part of the program. Volunteers either buy and wrap the items or provide money.
Dixon founded Christmas for Kids 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, it 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.
“You can shop for the kids and deliver if you want to, or if you want to remain anonymous, that’s fine,” Dixon said. “I enjoy seeing the faces on the kids. If you’re afraid you’re going to break down or get too attached, which is possible, we can deliver it for you. But it’s a lot more rewarding that way.”
Something that particularly is tugging at Dixon’s emotions this year is about a half-dozen children in the program have special needs or other disabilities.
“Usually there’s just about a couple of kids every year with those challenges,” she said. “This is the first year we’ve had this many with disabilities.
“That makes it a little harder. We want them all to have a beautiful Christmas. That’s so much deserved.”
She said northwest Alabama always comes through, and she is confident residents will meet the challenge again.
“The good part about it this year is a lot of folks are taking multiple kids, and that’s such a blessing,” Dixon said. “For most of the kids, their little wish lists are not bad. They don’t ask for large items, and if their items are too large, we just let the volunteers substitute for something age appropriate.”
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.