By Julie Garcia of the Caller-Times
For some families it comes down to either paying rent or buying Christmas presents. Even then, the Coastal Bend's most impoverished who struggle to make ends meet often don't have much of a choice. Keeping the kids warm and sheltered is more important than having the newest toy or video game. Even a new pair of shoes or a coloring book are luxuries.
That's where the Caller-Times Children's Christmas Appeal campaign comes in.
"It's not always frivolous items; many are excited they might get some help with winter coats," said Rebecca Rach, the director of Nueces County Department of Social Services.
Since 1973, the Caller-Times has reported the plight of underprivileged children during the holiday season. The names of those profiled are changed to the protect the privacy of the families, who will be featured in the newspaper from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.
This year, a group of local businesspeople and philanthropists is hoping to spread the spirit of giving early. As of Friday, the group of anonymous donors had raised more than $30,000 and offered a challenge to other businesses and the community to match their pledge, said Steve Arnold, vice president of sales and marketing for the Caller-Times.
"They're a group that cares about Corpus Christi and our children and families that are in need of assistance," Arnold said. "It takes all of us to step up and help one another and make this program successful and make their lives better."
Every cent donated to the drive benefits the children and families because all overhead costs are borne by the Caller-Times, United Way of the Coastal Bend and participating agencies.
Last year, the campaign raised nearly $124,000 and helped provide necessities and some luxury items to 2,599 children from 1,049 families in the Coastal Bend. The goal for 2015 is to raise $130,000 in donations to help more families.
Besides the traditional forms of giving, donations of $10 or more can be made by text message. Text "Christmas2015" to 41444. Have credit or debit card information handy because the donation is taken out immediately rather than being put as an added cost on cellphone bills.
More than 600 children and 230 families were helped through the department of social services in 2014, which aids families with their rent payments, utility bills, grocery bills and sometimes family burials, Rach said.
"We have eight social or case workers that interview clients all year long," Rach said. "As they interview the families, they choose those with children that are most needy for the Christmas Appeal stories."
With the donations, the department is able to provide $50 per child in the form of a Target gift card, which is good for clothing, shoes, toys and electronics. To qualify, families must not earn more than the federal poverty line, Rach said.
Other participating agencies include the Boys & Girls Club of Alice; Duval County Christmas Committee; the Kleberg County Welfare Department; the Odyssey After-Enrichment Program in Rockport; Sinton for Youth Inc.; and the Women's Shelter of South Texas.
To give online, please click here.