Instead of shopping for Christmas gifts, more than 1,200 District 200 families in need are expected to pick out clothes, toys and other items that were donated through the Christmas Sharing program.
Christmas Sharing, a 501(C)3 organization founded in 1969 by a District 200 school social worker, provides families within District 200 with food, gently-used clothes and toys that local churches, businesses and schools collect.
Hundreds of volunteers work each year to collect and organize donations to prepare eight Wheaton churches to resemble giant resale stores or pickup sites.
District 200 families apply to participate in the program through their children’s school. They receive an invitation to come to one of the designated churches to make their selections. Families may choose clothing and household goods, new Christmas toys for their children, and receive a box of food. World Relief also plays an active role in identifying the newly arrived families that are in need of assistance in the area, according to the release.
Bob Donisch, co-chair of the Christmas Sharing steering committee said the program has grown each year since 1969. In the past five years, Donisch said, there has been a "dramatic increase" in families that qualify as demographics in DuPage County have shifted.
Last year, 1,500 families received invitations to participate in Christmas Sharing, Donisch said last December. More than 1,200 showed to the event.
In 2010, 1,104 families signed up for assistance, according to a District 200 press release, and in 2009, 947 families—4,275 people—benefitted from the program.
As the economy continues to fluctuate, the need for the program looks even greater in 2012, according to a release from Christmas Sharing.
Students in District 200 have been collecting food, new and gently used clothing, and toys to help less fortunate families in the area. Sponsored by District 200, churches in Wheaton and Warrenville, individuals, and businesses, the program reaches to the corners of the community.
District 200 donates its vans and gas to transfer the collected items and food to various churches. Every church prepares for Christmas Sharing in its own way, but mostly it is a week of sorting, sizing, and stacking clothing, shoes, toys, books, and household items. Non-perishable food is sorted and food boxes are prepared for each family according to size.
Local businesses donate food, paper goods, soap and clothing. Individuals and civic groups donate money, which is used to purchase gift certificates to local grocery stores, which are then given to each family. Many area restaurants donate meals for the hungry volunteers as they work to prepare for this community-wide event.
Churches involved include: Aldersgate United Methodist, First Presbyterian, Gary Memorial United Methodist, Holy Cross Lutheran, St. John Lutheran, Trinity Episcopal of Wheaton and Blanchard Alliance, Community Baptist, Immanuel Presbyterian, St. Irene Roman Catholic, and Trinity Lutheran of Warrenville.
The Christmas Sharing distribution days are Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8.
For more information, go to Christmas-Sharing.org.