It’s that time of year when Americans open their hearts with the hopes of making someone’s holiday season a little brighter.
Across America, there are nearly 2.5 million grandparents raising their grandchildren. Some of those families are right here in Sampson County and this holiday season, many of them are depending upon the generosity of the Family Caregiver Support Program, through the Sampson County Department of Aging, to make this Christmas a great one for their families.
According to Lesia Henderson, specialist for the Sampson County Department of Aging’s Family Caregiver Support Program, the program was designed to help grandparents and kinship relatives who are raising their grandchildren and other family members. Throughout the year, the program assists these relatives, but the help is of greater need around the holiday season. Henderson said many of these family members often question where they will get food to feed the family, and most especially question where they will get the funds to purchase Christmas presents. That, Henderson said, is where the program comes into play.
One of the huge fundraising events for the program is the Shaggin’ for Santa event held yearly to raise funds to help purchase clothes, school supplies, toys and send children to summer camp. This year’s Shaggin’ for Santa event will be a little different. Organizers are hosting a New Year’s Eve party, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. at the Agri-Exposition Center. Admission will be charged, with all proceeds going to benefit the program. The event is being sponsored by Donnie Lamm of Nissan of Clinton.
“With funds received from Shaggin’ for Santa, we are able to assist grandparents with Christmas,” Henderson said. “This isn’t total support for the family, but it helps.”
Shaggin’ for Santa began nine years ago as a way to help the grandparents who were raising their grandchildren. Henderson said in the first year, $9,100 was raised. During the second year, $10,500 was raised. Last year’s event raised $4,567.
“These funds help grandparents who have been put in hardship situations,” Henderson stressed.
Many of the children who have been placed in the home of a grandparent are there, she pointed out, because the parent(s) may be on drugs, may be abusing the children, the parent(s) may be deceased or simply because the parent(s) no longer wants the children.
“Shaggin’ for Santa extends that hand of help and helps the grandparents with Christmas,” Henderson said. “It’s just something extra we do to help those grandparents who are in need.”
Henderson said funds that were raised last year helped 20 families, and a total of 42 children. Some of the families are adopted through local churches during the holiday season, but for those who aren’t adopted, many can’t provide Christmas for the grandchildren.
“Shaggin’ for Santa helps with those who haven’t been adopted,” Henderson explained.
Once the funds from Shaggin’ for Santa have been collected, grandparents provide a wish list to the department. Once the gifts are purchased, they are provided to the families. Any funds not used are put back into the program to help purchase school supplies and send the children to summer camp.
While the toys the children receive at Christmas are a huge benefit of the program, Marie Faircloth said it’s not all about the toys.
“Shaggin’ for Santa helps in so may other ways,” Faircloth asserted “It puts clothes on the children’s backs and puts other things into place. These resources are so valuable to the grandparents.”
Henderson said in addition to Lamm, the disc jockeys for the event, Robert Stroud and Joey Warren, have been instrumental in helping make this event a huge success.
The program, according to Henderson, provides community educational workshops, community advocacy, community outreach, care planning, caregiving counseling, caregiver training, support groups, respite, handy man work, yard work, household chore work, personal emergency response alarm systems and more.
“However the funds are limited,” Henderson acknowledged. “That is why the Shaggin’ for Santa fundraising is vital to the Family Caregiver Support Program’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. This fund-raiser furthers the assistance we give to those in this situation.”
The money raised during the annual Shaggin’ for Santa event is used to purchase items for the children who are a part of the support program. In addition to the items purchased at Christmas, such as toys, clothing and toiletries, any funds that remain at the end of the holiday season are used to help send the children to summer camp and purchase school supplies to deliver at the beginning of each school year.
“Shagging for Santa proceeds allow us to help those families that did not get adopted. Fundraising proceeds that are not used for Christmas are used to send grandchildren to summer camp, which provides the grandparents a time of respite.”
For more information about the Family Caregiver Support Program, contact Henderson at 910-592-4653 or [email protected]
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.