On Saturday, Dec. 15, the Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership (OWCAP) will be holding the ninth annual Community Christmas event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Ben Lomond High School. Community Christmas aims to provide toys and other necessities for 3,500 children living in poverty in Weber and Northern Davis counties.
At the event, parents shop for their children from the donation store, while the children participate in a carnival staffed by volunteer teen “elves.” The program’s goal is to provide each family with groceries and each child with at least two new toys, one pair of shoes or boots, one outfit or coat, as well as underwear and socks.
While the event has grown over the past decade, it’s in greater need than ever before. Last year, Community Christmas aimed to collect enough toys for 2,000 children and ultimately served 650 families and 1,800 children (remaining toys were donated to other organizations). This year’s goal of serving 3,500 children is a 75 percent increase from last year’s goal, largely due to other agencies asking Community Christmas to take on their sub-for-santa programs.
In addition to receiving Christmas assistance, families in need are connected to services that can help them improve their financial situation in the long term, including personal finance classes, housing and utility assistance, employment services, food assistance, domestic abuse support and parenting classes.
“Our goal is not just to be a bandaid,” said Bonnie Randall, the event’s coordinator, “it’s trying to help these families break the poverty cycle … and have a bigger, brighter future for their children.”
Randall said one of the best example’s of the event’s success is a mother who received assistance shortly after becoming a single mom. She was looking for a job and a house in addition to trying to find a way to buy toys for her kids for Christmas. Community Christmas provided Christmas assistance as well as connecting her to other services.
Now that same mom is a volunteer and a donor.
“That for us is the ultimate goal to help these families transition from being a receiving family to being a volunteer and a donor — not because we need more donors … but because that means they are finally at a place where they can give back and they’re stable,” said Randall.
Started by Earl “Torch” and Darlene Morris, a couple from East Layton, Community Christmas began as a group of families helping other families. While the event is now part of OWCAP, it has retained its emphasis on community volunteers.
All money and goods donated to Community Christmas go toward families in need, with a small portion being used for event costs. All event staff, including the event’s organizers, are volunteers.
The event does not have the support of grants or large donors.
Families are connected to the event by local school districts and other referring agencies. To request tickets for a family, review the program’s guidelines and access contact information at http://www.communitychristmasut.org/guests. Families living in southern Davis County can access similar assistance through the Bountiful Food Pantry.