very Merry Christmas came to the Department of Family and Children’s Services
children last week in an unconventional way. Usually,
people give gifts to the children at DFACS, but not so last week! The children
actually got to shop for gifts for others.
idea was the brainchild of
Lake Spivey/Clayton County Club Past President Tom Mertl. He served
as the Chair of the DFACS Board for 20 years and has a heart for the children.
He noticed the children were receiving gifts but did not have the opportunity
of experiencing the joy of giving. He started the “Giving Side of Christmas”
and the event has been a huge success.
is the tenth year the foster children of Clayton County have had the
opportunity to experience the joy of giving at Christmas. The Club
partnered with the Department of Family and Children Services, and held the
event there for the first six years.Four years ago, First Baptist Jonesboro,
led by Melody Allred, offered to host the event at the Church.
an effective concept that simulates the buying and giving experience. The
children come to the Recreational Outreach Center and as they eat pizza, they
make out a Christmas list of people they would like to give gifts to at
Christmas.The lists usually include their foster parents, sometimes biological
parents, biological and foster siblings, grandparents and other relatives, and
each one on their list they are given a “Rotary Buck." with the
picture of current Club President Gina McCombs. They are assigned a personal
shopper who takes them to the “Christmas Store." Everything costs one Rotary
buck. The shopper helps them make their selections and they take their
purchases to one of the wrapping stations. A Rotary or Church volunteer wraps the
presents, puts the name tags on them and puts all the purchases in a shopping bag.
children leave with Christmas to give. They are able to enjoy the complete
they shop, they enjoy playing in the gym with inflatables and games. Most
importantly, they visit and have a picture taken with Santa Claus.
foster parents are also given a much deserved fellowship time while their
children are taken care of by the Rotary and Church volunteers.
merchandise and monetary contributions are donated by Rotary Club members,
DFACS employees, Church members and friends of the program.
believe that this program has the opportunity to teach a few life lessons. One
of them is that the true joy of Christmas is the giving side," says Tom Mertl.