Once again the DeWitt County Angel Tree season of giving has arrived! For those “Angels” interested in helping families in need, YES-there will definitely be a 2018 ANGEL TREE holiday program in our community administered by long time Samaritan Room volunteers.
But first, “Angel Tree,” assisting 500 kids annually during the holidays, will have a different format from previous years. Our community is constantly changing and therefore, our program must reflect the issues in our community. For the past 27 years. I have served as the Samaritan Room Director. In that time, I have struggled with the Angel Tree holiday program, and question how I can continue to direct a program with so many obstacles presenting yearly? The decisions I have made, while not always popular, will keep the best interest of our financially disabled children, volunteers and donors in mind.
“A CHANGING COMMUNITY-“
• In 2015, Community Action, CIEDC, was no longer able to help screen applicants for eligibility. We are now reliant on local schools to help identify and verify children in need of assistance.
•In 2016, the closure of our Elk’s Club left us without a FREE six day venue large enough to collect, check and distribute coats, clothing and toys for 500 kids.
•In 2017, the Clinton Walmart closure ended a popular and successful campaign, (replacing our traditional collection/distribution of gifts,) and allowed parents to shop with donations for their own kid’s gifts.
•Walmart closure also impacted two very important programs, “Shop with a Cop” and “Shop with a Firefighter” - both dependent on local Walmart grants. (Surrounding Walmarts will only support their community’s charitable organizations.).
•Clinton Walmart was also necessary for our annual “School Shoe” program, allowing children the opportunity to try on shoes locally in August.
•Toys R Us and Bloomington Macy’s closures have also affected our ability to shop for coats and toy items.
•Many families have no transportation to shop out of town. This, we have discovered, severely impacts the ability to exchange gifts for correct sizes. Without a local Walmart, many families have no access to purchase the correct sizes of new clothing, coats or shoe items.
•Because of the demanding physical and time requirements, finding Angel Tree volunteers has become increasingly difficult during the holiday season and sadly, we see increasing burn out among our long term volunteers.
With some of the many challenges we face presented above, let’s move on to how “angels” can help children in our community and save volunteers with the new & improved 2018 program!!
• On November 3, State Farm Bank gave us a grant to host a “Financial Literacy Program,” offering financial education for those living in poverty. Families signed up online for the event, with appointment times to participate. Each child in need of a coat selected a correct size, and 368 coats were distributed! Families received State Farm prizes and signed up for “Angel Tree,” (with applications to be reviewed later for eligibility.) Cookies and a fun holiday movie pass was given to all who participated.
•MOVIE EVENTS for those who participated in the Nov.3 event will include a popcorn & drink at the Clintonia Eagle Theater, with the choice of:
-“MOVIE WITH A COP,” December 2nd
-OR, “MOVIE WITH A FIREFIGHTER,”
December 16th featuring: “POLAR EXPRESS.”
•GIFT CARD DISTRIBUTION at the Clinton Junior High School, December 16, 2018 from 1 p.m.-2 p.m.; for all those eligible, (including late sign ups,) to participate in the 2018 Angel Tree.
Gift card selections will include local and surrounding stores approved by our board. All parents will be allowed to chose one card per child.
-COATS- we are currently working with a local agency to stock coats for those children who did not receive a new coat on Nov 3. This location will be announced as soon as we finalize our plans.
•FARMER CITY ANGEL TREE- anyone living in Farmer City, Deland or Weldon May contact Lynda Harman (309) 846-8500 for more information. (Because Lynda has a small program, she is still able to host a traditional collection/distribution program.).
To continue helping our impoverished, we are in need of donations. We are anticipating 500 or more children in need of assistance.
•Please stop by the First National Bank lobby or drive-through, in Clinton, during normal business hours, to make your donation. (This is safest and easiest to help us keep track of donations.).
•If you are unable to visit the bank, checks may be mailed to “ANGEL TREE,” P.O. Box 258 Clinton, IL 61727.
Thank you for supporting the “Angel Tree,” with donations and, most of all, a positive attitude toward change. Our community of “Angels” continues to make a difference-giving children and their parents HOPE during difficult times!
Samaritan Room-Angel Tree of the DeWitt County Friendship Center
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