By Dylan Campfield
For the last 37 years, Share Your Christmas has been providing happy holidays for underprivileged families in the Durham area.
A joint collaboration between The Volunteer Center of Durham, Durham County Department of Social Services and The Herald-Sun, the program pairs people who wish to help with a family in need over the Christmas holiday.
The Volunteer Center of Durham’s website reports that gifts were provided last Christmas for 2,300 children and 3,800 residents.
“The creators of the program saw a need in the community and people wanting to help and looking for ways to engage,” says Director of DSS Volunteer Programs Nancy Wykle. “Folks needed a hand at Christmas and people wanted to do for others in the community, and this [program] came out of that.”
This year marks the first time Wykle, the former managing editor of the Durham Herald-Sun, has worked on this side of the program.
Families in need are referred to the Share Your Christmas program by Department of Social Services social workers.
Wykle explains, “Specific criteria are in place to make sure the family is facing financial hardship or it’s a child in the foster care system, just to make sure that we are getting to the folks that are the most in need. The DSS has been a partner with us for a long, long time.”
Those criteria include:
- families under the federal poverty line
- children in foster care
- families struggling with unemployment issues
- disabled community members
The program remains successful due in part to overwhelming support from the community, says Wykle.
According to Wykle, the program is usually able to sponsor between 3,500 to 4,000 people.
“We suggest spending about $50 per person,” says Wykle, “but a lot of donors go far beyond that.”
Gifts can either be delivered to the families in person or dropped off at DSS for later delivery. “We give the option,” Wykle says.
“This year most of our participants have asked for delivery,” Wykle clarifies. “I think a lot of folks want to meet the people who are reaching out to them, and I think that particularly for some of our homebound program participants that request [delivery] the visit is part of the gift, since they don’t get a lot of visitors– and just having somebody come in for a little while is a nice treat.”
Sponsoring a family directly isn’t the only way to help spread Christmas cheer.
Donations can be made through The Volunteer Center of Durham’s website or checks can be made payable to Share Your Christmas can be mailed to:
The Volunteer Center of Durham
Wykle says volunteers are also always welcome to help staff the volunteer center phone lines, which are open now until Dec. 3 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. All volunteer options are located here.
Volunteers can also help with gift pick-up and drop off held at Northgate Mall Dec. 3-14.
Further information regarding sponsoring, donating or volunteering with Share Your Christmas can be found on The Volunteer Center website or by calling 919-681-1835 or 919-613-5101.