Sheryl Wachter can’t point to just one reason for what she predicts will be a greater number of families in need as the 58th season for the Share Your Christmas program gets under way.
Inflation, chronic health issues, and a lack of child support are all common themes among the hundreds of applicant stories she has read since October.
All the longtime volunteer coordinator for the program knows is that it still takes only one event in a family — and not necessarily a “dramatic event” like hospitalization or a family member’s death — “to tip them over the edge into needing extra assistance,” Wachter said.
“One round of COVID in the family, and you can’t get to your McDonald’s job, or the kids are sick, the caregiver’s sick,” she said.
This year, inflation is squeezing the already tight budgets of low-income Greene County families.
“It’s just that gas costs more to get to work and take the kids to school, and groceries have gone up, and it costs a little more to buy the kids shoes this year, so most definitely that’s affecting the families,” Wachter said.
Many applicants have also shared their struggles with chronic health issues that prevent them from working or cause them to lose hours, days and even weeks on the job.
“A lot of moms either have chronic cancer or things like that that are long-term,” she said. “COVID is still very much in the community.”
COVID alone can start a cycle of lost workdays and wages, Wachter added, “so it’s very hard for these families, because most of them are hourly wage workers.”
And still other Share Your Christmas families include single mothers who aren’t receiving child support, she said.
Support in general is lacking for many families served by Crosslines of Springfield as well as its Share Your Christmas program, said Wes Buchholz, director of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks food pantry and resource center.
“How often do we talk to folks who they have no one in their life that they can borrow 500 bucks from or help pay for their tuition?” Buchholz asked as he and Wachter discussed the challenges their clients face.
Needless to say, Christmas gifts for their children are luxuries many can’t afford.
Yet every year, Wachter said, volunteers and donors step up to make sure that Share Your Christmas families — plus some 80 care center residents — receive gifts, food baskets and household necessities in time for the holiday.
Much goes on in the background in the weeks leading up to distribution day on Dec. 16.
Behind the scenes, some Share Your Christmas volunteers sort and organize donations, while others hop into their cars to make last-minute shopping trips to buy or exchange donations, she said.
“When we get right down to the last week, we have a lot of volunteers that come in,” Wachter said. “They inventory all the donations.
“It wouldn’t be fair for the 10-year-old to get three gifts and 5-year-old to get six gifts,” she explained.
The success of Share Your Christmas, started in 1964 by what was then the Springfield Leader and Press, depends on the donors who adopt families, whether they shop for gifts and drop them off at the Crosslines warehouse or donate money to the program.
“We also have wonderful people in the community that do financial donations,” Wachter said. “That’s so invaluable. Maybe the donor said, ‘Well, I was able to afford the large gift for the child, but I wasn’t able to afford the other stuff.’”
Some donors even earmark money for family household items like eating utensils or towels, Wachter said, since parents typically request only practical items for themselves.
Come distribution day, along with food baskets from Crosslines, “they get toys, they get clothing, they get a lot of those non-food stamp items,” Wachter said. “We usually send home big containers of toilet paper and laundry detergent.”
“Our community’s so generous that being adopted in this program is just wonderful for families.”
About Share Your Christmas
Share Your Christmas is the News-Leader’s and Crosslines’ annual campaign to give readers the opportunity to share their holiday spirit with others. This year, about 30 families and more than 80 care-center residents will have a brighter Christmas, thanks to Share Your Christmas donors.
Families and care-center residents may be adopted by a single donor or by a group working together to help one of the larger families. Donors may adopt an entire family, one family member, donate a single gift or donate any amount of money. Every dollar helps. Readers who wish to donate gifts can call Share Your Christmas at 417-866-8008 or email email@example.com. Callers should refer to the story number they wish to help, and they will be given specific information such as clothing sizes.
Gifts must be delivered to the east side of the Crosslines building, at 615 N. Glenstone Ave. The hours to deliver gifts are 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Dec. 10. If you are unable to deliver donations at these times, call 417-866-8008 to make other arrangements.
To make a monetary donation, send a check payable to Crosslines, Share Your Christmas, and the story number, if applicable, in the memo line. If the needs of that family or care-center resident have been met and you are willing to help others in the Crosslines holiday programs, please write “or as needed” in the memo line. Donations can be made at http://crosslinesholiday.org/give/or mailed to Share Your Christmas, 615 N. Glenstone Ave., Springfield MO 65802. Monetary donations are welcome any time of year.