Many families will still be working through leftover Thanksgiving turkey casseroles when they start to see some of Dawson Countys earliest signs of Christmas. Those signs would be star-covered KARE for Kids Christmas trees in local business establishments and volunteers clad in yellow KARE for Kids t-shirts, out shopping for Christmas gifts for the children on their lists.
KARE for Kids, Inc., is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 charitable organization that provides Christmas for underprivileged children. The group is funded primarily by proceeds from its annual Mountain Moonshine Festival, as well as from several other, smaller fundraisers and generous donations from individuals, businesses, churches and other civic organizations.
KARE for Kids (KARE) helps provide for the needs of lower income families children throughout the year, giving such items as eye glasses, school supplies, winter coats and clothing. But the organization is most known for what it does for children whose parents or other caretakers are struggling financially at Christmas.
When parents apply to the program for assistance, they provide details about their children, such as gender, age, clothing needs, clothing and shoe sizes and Christmas wish list items. The goal is to provide each child with three complete outfits (inside and out); a pair of shoes or a jacket, depending on need; three main toys costing between $20 and $50, and a few smaller gifts.
Needs and wishes are fulfilled through a combination of efforts: the Star Program, a team of volunteer shoppers and drop off donation boxes in stores.
Through the Star Program, Christmas trees are placed in 20-25 local, high traffic, businesses. Ornamental stars, each with the name of a childs wish list item written on it, are hung on the trees. Residents, businesses and organizations are invited to purchase the items listed on the starsone or manyand donate them to the cause.
For those items not collected through the Star program, KARE has organized a team of volunteers who personally shop for items on childrens wish lists. They use funds from the Moonshine Festival proceeds, and ever-mindful of the organizations budget, try to shop locally for everything they can.
This program takes a lot of pride in the fact that we personally shop for each child, says Calvin Byrd, who is serving his fifth year as president of KARE for Kids. Each child is personally shopped for by someone in the community.
New, unwrapped gifts will also be collected in drop-off boxes at businesses or churches around the county.
Once all the gifts are collected, KARE volunteers check to make sure everything on the childrens wish lists has been purchased and that the items are grouped correctly by family. Families pick up their childrens gifts on Dec. 17.
Last year, KARE for Kids provided Christmas packages for 718 Dawson County children in more than 300 families.
This is a very giving community, says Byrd. If it wasnt for the generous donations and the dedicated volunteers, theres no way this could be made possible for the children.
For more information on applying for assistance, volunteering to help or making a financial donation, call 706-216-KARE (5273) or visit kareforkids.us. Applications for assistance will be accepted through Dec. 5.