On Steve Parsons’ desk you’ll find paperwork that has each applicant assigned a number before it’s catalogued and computerized.
It’s just the way that things work when real-world solutions for routine problems are sought – using the in-field guru for his expertise and using his knowledge to help strengthen the rather wide gap between the homeless and the less fortunate and those who have help at their disposal.
And when you’re talking about homeless – especially during the holidays – it’s not to bring up the concept of children and their role in an ever-shifting and migration world that draws unfair stereotypes and is often misunderstood by those with the power to legislate around it.
Enter Christmas Angels.
Ever since Parsons took over at Love I.N.C. (In The Name of Christ), he has been overseeing a unique and growing program where families are asked to show support for children they had never met and the proceeds are presented without their knowledge and in a surrounding they never get a chance to observe.
The upside to that was that everything was completely anonymous. The downside was that it was impersonal for those who were doing the purchasing. So this year, with more than 500 kids scattered across the city, Parsons and the Board of Directors will allow the donors to deliver the presents in person.
“I don’t think kids have done anything wrong to deserve anything less than a perfect Christmas,” Parsons said. “Regardless of what kind of situation the parents might be in – whether it’s financial or drug-related – it’s not for me to decide which of these people are worthy or deserving. People want to help the kids and it’s our job to play the middlemen.
“When you see the smiles on their faces you kind of feel like Robin Hood, only that except for stealing from the rich you’re matching those in need up with those who can actually provide the help. Our mission statement is to mobilize the Christian churches to just to help ordinary people, but to help the churches help people. They act as a referral source to us in this, and we’ve become one of the major referral agencies of the Manteca Unified School District. In all of my years of doing this, we’ve never had to turn a single kid away.”
Of course, there’s still a wide gap between the number of people who are donating or who have already done so and the number of kids signed up keeps rising.
With a barebones staff – primarily himself, his board and a team of dedicated volunteers – Parsons often spends his nights going back and forth between the applications that have yet to be processed and the Excel spreadsheet that he uses to keep track of everything.
Volunteers, he said, are always needed, but Spanish speakers are especially important this time of year to answer the questions of people that call up and hope to get information.
Parsons said that last year he also had a shortage of donors but a last-minute press blitz led to a huge influx of cash – something he can’t accept this year. Given Manteca’s generous nature he has no doubt that every child will end up covered.
“We live in a generous community where people will literally bend over backward to do whatever is possible to help somebody else,” Parsons said. “It becomes even more important when those people that need help are children. It’s an important time of year for them, and we want to make it as special as possible.”
Love I.N.C. is located at 609 W. Center Street and can be reached at 209.823.9131. No walk-up appointments are accepted at the facility so visitors are urged to call ahead. For more information, visit www.loveincmanteca.org.