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Bringing Christmas joy to children in need

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'they're too young to understand poverty, or know where presents actually come from, and often wonder why their dreamed for gift was not delivered by Santa.'

Debbie
Rambo

As the Yuletide draws ever near, now more than any other time of year, we embrace the spirit of giving and answer the call to make every child's Christmas merry. At Catholic Charities, we will provide nearly 5,000 underprivileged children with presents. All of this is made possible thanks to our partnerships with The Thomas M. Menino Fund for Boston, Toys for Tots, local businesses, the Massachusetts State Police, Catholic schools and dozens of local parishes.

For many families struggling in our community, the need to make ends meet often supersedes gift giving during the holiday season. While this may be a difficult pill for adults to swallow, it can be very damaging especially for children who are young enough to believe in Santa Claus, and who blame themselves for not getting any presents. "Every year we hear that story from some of the kids that are new to the program," one of our child care workers told me, "they're too young to understand poverty, or know where presents actually come from, and often wonder why their dreamed for gift was not delivered by Santa." One colleague, who has devoted his life to urban ministry, poignantly recounts the day that he spoke with a shy young girl, who shared with him that she had not received any gifts for Christmas, because she "was bad."

Inspired to ensure that every one of the children in our five child care centers and two family child care programs are able to unwrap joy this Christmas morning, Catholic Charities is blessed to participate in annual Giving Tree programs in with collaboration nearly 40 different parishes across the Archdiocese of Boston. Every year, we ask the families and caregivers of the children at each of our child care centers to let us know what is on their child's wish list, and then provide the list of these wished for gifts to the participating parishes. Each parish then creates a Giving Tree adorned with ornaments noting each child's wish. Parishioners to take an ornament, and volunteer to buy the gift to be delivered back to us to be given to our children.

We also partner with Toys for Tots, service groups, schools, youth groups and local companies to help make Christmas special for many at Catholic Charities South office, located in Brockton. There, we convert our offices into a winter wonderland of donated toys, books and warm winter clothing for parents of children to "shop" so that they can choose gifts for their children.

In addition to our own gift programs, we are hosting the 25th Annual Gift for Kids for the 10th consecutive year. This year would be the 25th Anniversary of Mayor Menino's first Christmas Eve walk down Bowdoin and Geneva Avenue. His understated first visit with a small gathering of community members started a tradition where the mayor would walk along those streets while he visited the local businesses, giving out toys and gifts to kids and families that he saw along the way. As the years have gone by, the number of people who have come to rely on his generosity has increased. Today, the Menino family raises funds to purchase toys to match children's wishes. Our Teen Center hosts families and volunteers on Christmas Eve morning as toys are distributed and Mayor Menino's tradition of giving continues.

At this special time of year, inspired by our faith tradition, we are grateful to all who are able to help us live out our mission of care and concern for our neighbors with our wishes for a blessed Christmas filled with hope and peace for you and those you hold dear.

For more information about the work that we do in the Christmas season and throughout the year, go to ccab.org.

Deborah Kincade Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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