Stephen Parsons is worried. He is still looking for Christmas Angels to make the season bright for more than 200 children from needy families in the community. And time is quickly running out to get the gifts in time for the Thursday, December 20, deadline.
The executive director of Love INC (In the Name of Christ) in Manteca has a total of 500 children signed up for the Children’s Christmas Gift Program this year.
“I have 235 kids I can’t cover. I’ve been covered in the past but I have eight days left. I don’t want to call the parents and say, ‘I’m sorry,’” said Parsons on Wednesday. He is part of the all-volunteer non-profit organization in Manteca keeping Love INC alive.
Parsons has every reason to be worried.
“The economy is tougher; the economy is not what it used to be,” he said. People who, in the past, have given them a helping hand “are now needing help themselves.”
“People who had reserves have gone through their reserves, and now they’re asking, ‘what do we do now?’” added Bob Mitchell, administrative assistant for the organization that is “helping churches help people” in the area.
Some of the families have the mother or father – several of them are single parents – working but they are having a hard time making ends meet, and there are not extra funds to buy gifts to place under the Christmas tree for the children, let alone to buy the simplest tree. “Some of the families have a lot of small kids – seven, eight, nine kids. They are the working poor,” Mitchell said.
For Love INC’s Christmas gift project for children, individuals or organizations in the community are asked to “adopt” one or more children. The donated gifts are then distributed to the needy families who have been asked to provide “three needs and three wants” for each child. Prospective donors are given a “scroll” containing these needs and wants, plus a “code number” that will be placed outside the wrapped gifts to help Love INC identify the child on the master list.
Using a code number will allow the parents “to personalize the gift tag in any manner they wish – whether it be Santa or Mom or Dad,” explained Parsons.
The families’ dire financial straits are evident in the items that are being requested, said Parsons and Mitchell. Most of the requests are basic needs such as food, blankets, and clothing instead of toys, they said.
Deadline for turning in the donations at St. Paul’s United Methodist is noon Thursday, Dec. 20. The church is located on the corner of North Powers Avenue and East North Street in Manteca.
Parsons said 599 children received gifts through this Christmas Gift Program. He said this was in addition to the 250 children who were helped through the Manteca Unified School District, the Soroptimist International of Manteca, and other organizations.
Gifts will be distributed the week before Christmas at a “drive-thru event” to be held at a church in Manteca. The name of the church will be announced to the parents at a later date.
“If people who want to adopt a kid don’t have time to shop for the gifts, they can donate cash and we’ll do the shopping,” Mitchell said.
They will also accept gift cards.
People who “feel moved to adopt” one or more children this Christmas are asked to call Love INC at 825-9131 and ask for Bob or Stephen. They are also in need of volunteers to help make the gift scrolls and in tracking and organizing the gifts, and to assist on distribution day.