The Walmart Moms were given $100 to use as we chose, to do any sort of blog post as we wished. I couldn’t decide between doing some serious crafting, or some sort of DIY job around the house. One day, it hit me. I was at a meeting, listening to them talk about how a local charity lost one of their major donors. I knew I couldn’t reach that donor’s level, but I figured, every little bit helps. I decided that I was going to donate my gift card of $100 to Christmas Cheer, a local non-profit organization that works very closely with Toys for Tots, and coordinates giving Christmas gifts, and meals to the people in our community that need it the most.
I was lucky enough to meet up with Theo McClammy, the Executive Director for Onslow Community Outreach, and get a full behind the scenes tour at Christmas Cheer. The community really embraces Christmas Cheer, under the idea that “We do it for the Children”. It helps instill the feeling that they are loved, and that they truly do have a caring community behind them.
The first things I noticed were the stacks of boxes and the tables of toys! I learned that the boxes were all donated by the local Rotary Club, and packed full of food for the families that come through the program. The food that fills those boxes comes from the local community. Schools, and local businesses collect a majority of the food that is donated. Mr. Michael Ellzey is on his 7th year of volunteering at Christmas Cheer and is the food coordinator. About 20 volunteers come in and fill up about 1400 boxes of food to give out. He told me that each box contains about 2-3 days worth of food for a family. How much does it cost to fill these boxes and feed local families? Well, it was estimated that about $10K worth of food is donated, but Christmas Cheer has to take about $30K to buy the rest that is needed. Wow.
Linda Fountain is the Toys Volunteer Coordinator. She told me that they give out somewhere around 20,000 toys to local community children in need. They work very closely with Toys for Tots to get toys for children ages 12 and under. The volunteers separate out the toys by price levels. “A” toys are valued at $15 and up, “B” toys are $5-$10, and “C” toys are considered Stocking Stuffers. Volunteer “Escorts” help the parents “shop” for toys during the distribution days. For children aged 13 and up, the Department of Social Services holds fundraisers and collects donations for cool gifts that would be of interest to their age range. As they go through the lines, the Volunteer keeps track of how many toys from each section they receive, and make sure they don’t miss out on anything! At the end, everyone gets a grab bag and books if they have enough. They even have a limited number of winter coats available to anyone that needs one. The Volunteers make sure the families get their box(es) of food and help them load up their vehicle!
I learned more about the story behind losing one of their major donors. This particular sponsor used to live in the area, but moved to another state, and decided that they were going to keep their donations locally. This meant that Christmas Cheer was going to lose their biggest bicycle donation. This send them scrambling to figure out how they were going to make sure that they had enough to give away, but little did they know that God was working a miracle! This story was in the local paper one day, and a very generous man saw that story and came into the office. He told them that his he and his wife had always joked about what he would do with her money when she passed on… Well, his wife had recently passed away, and when he saw the article in the paper, it was as if his wife was telling him to help the children. He made a very generous donation to Christmas Cheer, and helped them buy a majority of the bicycles that they needed. At the time of my interview, they had approximately 250 bicycles and helmets donated between the generous donation from this man, and other local groups. All of the bikes are assembled by volunteers so that they are ready to ride on Christmas morning! In fact, a group of about 30 Marines had come in the previous weekend to put a good bunch of them together.
Christmas Cheer is a 90 day whirlwind of activity, from building out the temporary offices, in the building that is donated by a local Food Lion owner, to tear down and clean up when they give the keys back on January 2nd.
This truly is a community operation. If it weren’t for everyone involved, Christmas Cheer wouldn’t be as successful as it is.
Even as I was standing there interviewing everyone, private citizens would walk in with bags of toys, food, or even monetary donations. If you would like to help out, they will be most grateful. You can even help in the off season! Just contact Onslow Community Outreach!
I was able to donate a $100 Walmart gift card as part of the Walmart Moms program. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn more about Christmas Cheer and help out.
I am a participant in the Walmart Moms program. Walmart provided me with compensation for my time and efforts on this post. Participation in this program is voluntary. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.