Quite often we take for granted the simplest things in life. A warm house in the winter. Plenty of food in the kitchen. Laptops for school. Presents under the tree at Christmas.
For most children, Christmas is a magical time of year. But for children and their families who struggle financially throughout the year, Christmas is a grim reminder of what they cannot afford. Parents are often faced with the painful task of telling their children that there will be no presents under the tree.
A local, Jackson County non-profit has been working to alleviate this stress for over 7 years under current ownership, with previous owners working since 1989.
The Christmas Connection of Jackson County is a 501c3 organization that runs entirely off of volunteers and community donations.
The focus of this organization is to provide presents for as many children in Jackson County as possible, with a focus on involving parents in the gift-giving process.
Brian Chamberlin, president and treasurer of The Christmas Connection, explained that his family took over the organization in 2014 with the goal of providing focused support for children in Jackson County.
“No child should be without presents on Christmas. They return to school in January and see the gifts that other children received from Santa and wonder, ‘Why do I not deserve presents?’”, said Chamberlin.
To be eligible for the program, children must qualify for food stamps and/or Medicaid. They do not need to be actively receiving assistance, but they must qualify.
The Christmas Connection of Jackson County works with the Department of Social Services and the Jackson County Health Department to identify possible candidates for the program.
If qualifications are met, parents are given a form to fill out that provides information about each of their children. Clothing sizes, special needs, toy preferences, favorite colors, etc. are included in the form to help provide the best gifts for each child.
Each child receives brand-new items including one outfit and socks, school supplies, toys and smaller items. There is also a table provided for parents to choose from household items and decorations.
“We want the parents to feel that they are involved in the gift-giving process, so they approve all of the gifts and we give them wrapping paper to package the gifts themselves,” said Chamberlin.
Community donations are the life-blood of this organization and there are several businesses and local groups that work to collect toys and money for The Christmas Connection.
Hell on Wheels Motorcycle Club may seem like a group of rough-and-tumble bikers from first glance, but they are continuously dedicated to raising money to make Christmas special for Jackson County kids.
“Our club is privileged to help the Christmas Connection because it gives us a way to be involved in helping the children in need get a better Christmas here in Jackson County. We’re a family-oriented club, so helping children is something important to us,” said SOT, NC Chapter President of Hell on Wheels MC.
On Saturday, Dec. 4, HOW MC held their 7th annual Toy Run collecting $20 donations or a new toy for entry.
The club collected over $6,000 in 2020 for the Christmas Connection of Jackson County with hopes of exceeding that number this year.
Other community sponsors have included the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning at WCU and WCU Athletics. Both groups work to find volunteers and collect toys for donation.
To sponsor a child for $75 with The Christmas Connection, visit their website christmasconnectionofjc.org. You can also sign up to volunteer through their site.
Donation drop-off sights can be found at various stores throughout the county, one to mention is SmartStyle Hair Salon inside of Walmart. They are offering 10% off a haircut with the donation of a toy.
Commonly requested toys to consider for donation: