Christmas giveaways provide holiday cheer

Emily Camacho, Hispanic Services coordinator, left, and Lauren Goldener, community engagement specialist for Migration and Refugee Services, sorted items in the gymnasium at Catholic Charities’ St. Anthony’s campus, 2222 W. Market St., Dec. 6. Catholic Charities is hosting a Christmas giveaway event through Dec. 17 for its clients. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Without Catholic Charities of Louisville’s annual Christmas giveaway, Elizabeth Hancock isn’t sure how she would have made it through the holidays the past few years.

“They’ve always been there to make sure these kids have Christmas,” she said in a recent interview.

The mother of five adopted her sister’s children shortly before last year’s giveaway. When she showed up for the agency’s gift giveaway needing more gifts than expected, Catholic Charities staff didn’t bat an eye, she said.

“They were like, ‘It’s a kid, they’re with you, we’re going to take care of you,’ ” Hancock said. “Because of these people, my kids have not missed a Christmas. It excites me to know they’re out there and will help you.”

Toni Flores, the AmeriCorps Vista database coordinator and community partner tracker at Catholic Charities, said that the agency collected 600 coats and $12,500 in gift cards for the giveaway. More than 25 parishes, businesses and agencies made donations.

“We expect about 600 toys going out, plus an additional 200 arts and crafts items and 400 games, sports balls and puzzles,” Flores said.

The shopping experience mirrors that of a department store. The gymnasium at Catholic Charities’ St. Anthony campus is set up with aisles, tables and displays.

Hancock said she appreciates the setup.

“It’s probably one of the best places I’ve ever been to,” Hancock said. “I love how they do it. They give you a bag, tell you to pick out some toys, clothes, family games.”

Kathy Kunau, a member of the Queen’s Daughters, stacked Barbie Dolls on a shelf in the gymnasium on Catholic Charities’ St. Anthony’s campus, 2222 W. Market St., Dec. 6. Catholic Charities is hosting a Christmas giveaway event through Dec. 17 for its clients. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Last year, Hancock was even able to find a specific toy on her daughter’s wish list: “My 4-year-old had a mermaid doll with long hair on her list. They actually had one!”

Flores said the agency will serve about 200 families, totaling 850 individuals, this year — up from 160 families, a total of 700 individuals, served last year.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul collected gifts of clothing, shoes, toys and other goods for its annual Santa Shop, now in its 26th year. Two-hundred fifty-three families shopped for presents for their children on Dec. 11.

Tony Nochim, communications and public relations coordinator, said 702 children received gifts from the Santa Shop this year.

“It was great,” he said in a recent phone interview. “One mother said she had a house fire in August and was able to shop for her two boys. Another mom was excited to get skates for her daughter. … Overall it was great.”

More than 350 volunteers propelled the Santa Shop’s success. Located in the Family Resource Center of St. Vincent de Paul’s campus on South Jackson Street, the Santa Shop was set up like a store for families to shop.

The society relies on volunteers for a variety of its services. To learn about volunteer opportunities, contact Donna Young, director of volunteer services and conference affairs, at 301-8688 or dyoung@svdplou.org.

Kayla Bennett
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Kayla Bennett
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