DURHAM — A local charity is hoping to help even more children this Christmas — which means they need even more supporters.
“We’re really flexible. If someone has $20 to give we will find a way to make it work for them,”
Every year, Dreams and Wishes Children’s Charity brings Christmas morning magic to kids living in Durham’s shelters.
This year Bethesda House in Bowmanville will be added to the program, which already includes Herizon House, Denise House and Y’s WISH shelter.
President and founder Denise Stahl says the charity started with a simple realization.
“I thought about how kids in the shelters don’t get to celebrate their birthdays the way they normally would, and it grew from there to include Christmas,” she explains.
Every fall the organization sends pre-written wish lists to children living at the shelters and the kids fill in the blanks with their name, age and the gifts they’re hoping for.
Children take their letters to an annual breakfast with Santa hosted by Dreams and Wishes, then volunteers start tackling the lists.
Gifts are wrapped and delivered to the shelters in time to be placed under the tree.
Last year volunteers filled wish lists for about 100 children; organizers expect that number to be higher this year with the addition of Bethesda House.
“We get the most wonderful feedback from shelter staff and parents, we hear from parents who say they want to help us as soon as they get back on their feet,” Ms. Stahl says. “We read the letters out at our volunteer meetings and it makes it all worthwhile.”
No amount of help is too small. If donors can’t afford to take on a child’s whole list they can choose to buy a portion of the items, or a single item.
“We’re really flexible. If someone has $20 to give we will find a way to make it work for them,” Ms. Stahl says.
In addition to the Christmas program, Dreams and Wishes helps year round by providing kids entering a shelter with a bag packed with pajamas, toiletries, a book and stuffed animal.
The organization also provides birthday party supplies and gifts to disadvantaged children in the community and organizes an annual “un-birthday” celebration for children living in shelters.
As of this year, Dreams and Wishes is now a registered charity.
Local residents can help by adopting a wish list, donating new toys, gift cards, pajamas or wrapping paper or helping with fundraising.
Teens looking for volunteer hours are also needed to help at the breakfast with Santa.
Story by Sabrina Byrnes
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