When KidsTLC’s Holiday Giving Program launched over a decade ago, no one at the organization had any idea it would become such an annual outpouring of love. “It really started with the idea that we had kids who wouldn’t be able to go home for Christmas,” says Elizabeth Hall, the director of campus and community engagement for KidsTLC. “We wanted to bring the joy of the holiday season while kids were on our campus. There was—and continues to be—an unbelievable amount of generosity throughout the community for this event.”
In the 70s, KidsTLC was a preeminent emergency shelter for abused and neglected children. Over the years, their mission has continued to grow and meet community needs by implementing innovative new programs. The residential and outpatient services they provide have expanded over the years to further help children in the areas of mental and behavioral health, autism, and family support.
Next month, the organization is slated to open a brand new facility that will double the physical footprint of the campus. The campus expansion—its biggest in over a decade—is designed to get more kids in need off the state’s waitlist and into KidsTLC’s expansive programs. “It’s really exciting. It’s going to allow us an additional 50 residential beds,” says Shannon Wickliffe, chief development officer. “But with our upcoming expansion, we’re going to nearly double our program needs, creating a necessity for our Holiday Giving Program to grow. We’re going to want to make sure the holidays are extra special for our new kids and their families.”
For many of the children seeking a brighter future on campus, “the holidays that most of us have experienced are not necessarily a thing for them. To come here and have someone ask, ‘What would you like?’—that might be the first time they’ve been asked that,” adds Wickliffe.
Three Ways You Can Help
Each child on campus makes an individual, handwritten wish list for presents from Santa. “Kids come into our residential program around the holidays and ask how will Santa know where I am—and that’s never something a child should wonder,” Hall says. She says many community members will swoop in and fulfill that child’s wish list, no matter how big or small.
“The wish list is a chance for the gift giver to get to know our kids and the items they want,” says Wickliffe. “We’ve seen kids put basic things on their list—right down to socks and underwear. It illustrates the need some of these kids have. Other times, it’s something that every child wants, like Bluetooth earbuds or video games.”
Next up is the family wish list. “It’s really an opportunity for those families whose children are benefitting from our array of services to create family memories.” says Hall. “It takes some of the burden off—and provides an opportunity to build important family connections during times of significant challenge.”
Finally, community members are encouraged to make donations to the organization’s innovative and nationally recognized programs. “It’s a great opportunity to make sure we have all the supplies to provide the enriched level of services children and their families need while at KidsTLC,” says Hall.
Local Companies Are Stepping Up
With more kids than ever on campus this December, several local businesses are stepping up to help with the expanded need for gifts and donations. Town Center Plaza and Town Center Crossing are providing a storefront in the former Coldwater Creek location for KidsTLC through December. “We’re going to decorate the windows with some handcrafted whimsy,”says Hall. “In addition to our website, it will be a place where folks can gather details about the giving program and find various merchants who will have collection boxes in their stores. It will also be a holiday workshop on select days where gifts will be wrapped and sorted.” Macy’s and Matthew Made Art are also collaborating with the organization to guarantee a brighter holiday for all. “These partnerships are all new and exciting for us and will certainly help us while our campus is growing during a pandemic,” she says.
Tremendous Response, Tremendous Generosity
KidsTLC’s Holiday Giving Program has had quite an impact, becoming one of the organization’s largest gift-in-kind efforts. “The number of gifts that come in, along with the support, the community volunteerism, the wrapping, the parties, the celebrations—It’s all very transformative for our agency and our kids,” Hall says.
Given all the new pandemic safety protocols, the organization has seen a proactive shift in the type of support they receive. “Prior to the pandemic, people would come directly to campus to help,” she explains. “Now, it comes in the form of drop-offs and other means of supporting us. It shows the tremendous amount of community support out there—especially when we’ve had to pivot.”
And with the new year right around the corner, the organization is collectively looking forward to returning to a sense of normalcy in 2021. “We’re excited about growing and improving upon what we already feel is our best in class—the services we provide,” says Wickliffe. “With this expansion, we’re going to be able to provide services for kids who, frankly, have unimaginable obstacles to overcome which makes their placements difficult. That’s what we do—and now we’ll be able to do more of it. So 2021—I’m looking forward to it.”
Visit www.kidstlc.org/holidaygiving to learn how you can help!