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The sharing of LOVE
Struggling families now have gifts for kids
Volunteer Robert Summer brings a bicycle gift to a family as part of the Love INC distribution of gifts and gift cards for needy kids on Thursday. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Times are tough for Sandra Williams.

Waiting on her military pension and helping to raise her grandchildren, getting a payday advance to help put groceries on the table isn’t out of the ordinary and often leaves the former Oakland resident flat-broke with little prospects outside of food pantries and handouts from local non-profits.

She’s not a proud woman. Williams says that she’s just waiting for the system to push her check through to the otherside – “you know how slow the government can be” she says – before she’ll be able to make the kind of changes in her life that she says her grandchildren deserve.

So on Thursday when she pulled up to the Love INC gift distribution site at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and was handed a $40 Target gift certificate, Williams was beside herself with joy. She knew that all of the toys and gifts that her granddaughter wanted would be covered with that single gift card.

“Everything that I asked for I’m going to be able to get with this,” Williams said. “It’s tough for us right now – when you have to get payday advance loans to put food on your table, there isn’t enough money left over for any Christmas presents or toys no matter how much you want to get them.

“I didn’t have a reason to put up my Christmas tree because I didn’t have anything to put beneath it. Now I have something to put under it, so I’m going to go home right now and pull it out. That Christmas spirit is with me today.”

And Williams wasn’t alone.

Just as Love INC Executive Director Stephen Parsons would get through one line of cars – some of which received gifts, some gift cards, some bicycles and some a combination of the three – he’d get a chance for two quick breaths before another line pulled into the parking lot.

In all truth, Parsons wishes that he didn’t have to be out there checking IDs and running down a list of more than 130 families that need help during the holiday season.

But he knows that he has the backing of the community for as long as he needs it.

Earlier in the week Parsons announced that he didn’t quite have enough toys and donations to meet the demand that the ministry had amassed, and within less than a day his phone was exploding with people who were willing to offer anything they could from presents to cash donations. By the time the first wave of children came, there was enough to make sure that nobody went without.

That kind of devotion, he said, is hard to find in other places.

“I won’t live anywhere else,” Parsons said matter-of-factly. “Any time I have a need I go to the community with my need and they step up and step up big. All you have to do is look around today and see how selfless people in this community are.”