Not all teens and tweens have giving on their radar, but Amelia and Olivia Delaney consider it their responsibility. “It makes me feel good inside that people who wouldn’t get gifts will be able to receive them,” says Olivia. Her sister, Amelia, adds, “It lets them know that people who don’t know them do care about them.”
For the past three years, their family has chosen Catholic Charities’ programs as recipients of their generosity. Last year, Sonja (the girls’ mother), Amelia and Olivia pooled their giving funds to make Christmas special for two families through Project Bethlehem.
“I think it’s a neat project,” says Sonja. “It would be great if everyone could help a family. Not everyone has a family network that can help them out.” Her family will be sponsors again this year.
“We’ve always saved for a project,” says Sonja about their giving habits. “I’ve never really thought about it. It’s always been that way,” says Olivia.
“We have three places – spending, saving and giving,” Amelia, adds, speaking of where the girls place their allowance money.
Giving seems to be in the family’s genes. Speaking about her mother, Sonja says, “Regardless of what she had, she was always helping someone out. And she still does.”
Sponsors purchase and wrap gifts for parents and children. Wish lists from families often include coats, boots, towels, blankets and toys.
“Most of the presents for parents are necessities,” says Sonja. For a couple expecting a baby, they bought a winter jacket, gloves and hat for a father, clothes for a soon-to-beborn baby and household items. “It was fun to shop for baby clothes,” Sonja remembers.
Last year, they received an eleventh-hour call asking if they could help a second family with two young sons who had just become eligible for Project Bethlehem. “I couldn’t imagine those boys not having a Christmas,” says Sonja. So the ladies made it their mission to sponsor them as well.
If you would like to help a family through Project Bethlehem, in the Toledo area, contact Vickie Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org or (419) 244-6711, ext. 217; in Norwalk, Martha Hillman: email@example.com or (419) 668-3073; or in Mansfield, Laurie Hamrick: firstname.lastname@example.org or (419) 524-0733, ext. 226.
Most of us consider the holiday season the brightest and happiest time of the year. The celebratory warmth of Thanksgiving and the clear hope of Christmas give us an opportunity to gather with loved ones in the embrace of God’s all-consuming love.
But it’s important to realize the holidays don’t feel that way for everyone. Some, because of setbacks like job loss, domestic upheaval or addiction – or because of memories of difficult holidays past – actually dread the holiday season. To them, it only underscores their feelings of isolation and loneliness. Catholic Charities’ Christmas outreach program, Project Bethlehem, is designed to brighten the holidays of families with children who would otherwise not be able to afford to celebrate.
Michelle Poole, Housing Program Coordinator with Catholic Charities, said that in Toledo in 2010, 53 families were helped.
“These are low and no income families, people who would not have had any Christmas if not for Project Bethlehem.”
Partnering with Santa
The program works by matching sponsors with families in need. The sponsors buy gifts for the entire family – age and gender appropriate gifts for the children, and useful items for the parents as well. The sponsors bring the gifts to Catholic Charities, who sees that Santa delivers them in time for Christmas.
“The sponsors can be parishes, businesses or individuals in the community who want to help a family enjoy Christmas. Some sponsors actually give to more than one family,” Poole said.
Catholic Charities also runs similar Project Bethlehem operations for dozens more needy families in Mansfield and Norwalk.
“Santa always appreciates our help,” Michelle said. “I’m told that even he’s having trouble making ends meet these days.”