Voluntary Action Center Struggles with Christmas Program
COLUMBIA - The Voluntary Action Center is hosting its 29th annual Christmas program this year. This year it accepted 1,150 families/individuals to the program. However, due to the rough economy this year, fewer families are sponsors and more families are participants.
"We're a little bit behind on getting our sponsors. We actually have about 250 families left to be sponsored. And at this time last year we had 135 families left," said Project Director Ron Schmidt.
"We, in the 29 years that we've done this, we've never not sponsored all of them. Some years it's tight, some years it's right down to the wire, but we have never not sponsored them. So this year could be the first year and we certainly hope that is not the case."
Schmidt said that this year, many families who have sponsored households in need, are in need themselves and have signed up to be "adopted".
But the Christmas Program has also had the opposite effect on some.
Charlie Thomas was once a participant in the Christmas Program. But she is now a volunteer. After losing her job while she was on maternity leave, she turned to VAC for help.
"I remember the coolest thing was, was that this family, we put a list of what we would like for our child and some household needs. And when we went to pick up our presents, the family had brought our son a bouncing horse. The kind that's big and sits up on the springs. It was the coolest thing in the world. Something I had never thought to get my child," said Thomas.
"Then things got better. We both got jobs, had some more children. And then over the years I started volunteering with the Voluntary Action Center and have enjoyed every minute of it. "
For some volunteers, adopting a family has become a Christmas tradition.
"We've been doing this, since, as long as I can remember," said Lauren Helmreich.
"It's amazing what some of the families have their wish lists, clothes, sheets, stuff like that."
Helmreich's brother, Andrew is currently stationed at Fort Bragg. But that hasn't stopped his involvement in the program. He sent money back home so that he too could continue to be a sponsor.
"The program just means so much to our family. And we love doing it," said Lauren Helmreich.
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