Community connecting needy folks to Christmas -- Gazette.Net



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If not for donations from the community, 2,400 children might not be having a merry Christmas this year.

Distribution week was held Dec. 17 to 20 for Christmas Connection, sponsored by the Charles County Department of Social Services and the Charles County Children’s Aid Society.

“If we didn’t have the support of the community, this wouldn’t happen,” said Pamela Vahle, chairwoman of the board of directors of the Charles County Children’s Aid Society. Vahle said the program is “blessed to have received such strong support.”

“The success of this program is an example of how important it is for us to think globally by supporting locally,” Vahle said. “Children’s Aid Society wishes everyone a blessed holiday.”

Latisha Ross of Indian Head came to Christmas Connection to shop for her five daughters, ages 10, 9, 8, 4, and 3. She said she was focused on shopping for a little of bit of both clothing and toys. Ross lucked out and was able to take home a bike for one of her daughters, in addition to three books per child, a stocking of goodies for each child, and three stuffed animals for each child, as well as clothing and shoes.

“It’s great that they have something for the families that don’t have a lot,” Ross said.

Ross said she was worried this year would be worse than previous years because she has been ill since March. After she and her husband pay the bills, she said not much is left for gifts for the children.

“I think if it wouldn’t be for this, my kids wouldn’t have nothing,” said Ross, who has come to The Christmas Connection since she started receiving assistance from the Department of Social Services in 2003.

Thelma Boswell of Waldorf said the father of her children is involved and is employed. She is a stay-at-home mother.

“I don’t want to say this is the only thing they get, but toy-wise it’s a big part of it,” Boswell said.

She came to The Christmas Connection to shop for her daughters, ages 11, 10, 4 and 1, and her 8-year-old son. Boswell said she does not tell her children where the clothes and toys come from. This year, she was focused on toys for her younger children and basics, such as socks and underwear.

“I just know what they like and, if I see something, I’ll get it,” Boswell said.

Earle Knapp, member of the board of directors of the United Way of Charles County, said 300 volunteers gave their time in five days for The Christmas Connection.

“The sheriff’s department alone probably gives us close to 100 volunteers,” Knapp said. “The sheriff has been really generous with his time and his folks.”

Charles County Sheriff Rex Coffey said The Christmas Connection is an opportunity for officers to be near the people they serve.

“That’s the thing that people don’t really know,” Coffey (D) said. “These guys do these kinds of things and fight crime, too.”

Coffey said six officers from the Charles County Sheriff’s Office were assigned to each shift at Christmas Connection. Officers helped by carrying bags to clients’ cars.

“A lot of giving going on in Charles County,” Coffey said of The Christmas Connection. “I don’t know that there’s a county in America that gives more.”

Alfreda Banks volunteered at this year’s Christmas Connection and escorted Boswell, assisting her in making choices. Banks said she volunteered with the program several years ago.

“They’ve got it down to a science,” Banks said of the program. She said the program is organized so that volunteers get to spend time with each client and not rush.

Cindy Coffey, who has assisted with the program for 10 years and is a member of the board of directors of the Charles County Children’s Aid Society, said 8,283 books were donated for The Christmas Connection.

Cindy Coffey said volunteers refill the tables of items at the end of every shift.

“Our goal is to have the same quality and quantity of stuff that we have on Tuesday morning as Thursday night,” Knapp said.

This year’s tables at The Christmas Connection included stuffed animals, toys organized by age and gender, books, movies, accessories and school supplies.

“We don’t want any child to go without at Christmas,” said Cindy Coffey.

rbarnabi@somdnews.com