Christmas 1997 marks the third year in our organization's move away from a
charity-based strategy for assisting economically disadvantaged families
during the holidays.
I know you are familiar with the typical approaches. The children in Family
X will receive little or nothing for Christmas because mom or dad or both
don't work. Or, if they do, they don't earn enough for the extras of
Christmas. Unemployment or, in most cases, underemployment make for a very
lean holiday season. What's to be done? Churches, civic clubs, and
businesses organize toy drives and food collections. Then, just before St.
Nick's big day, the gifts are either delivered to the families in need or
picked up by the parents who have signed up for help. Generally, the
process results in lots of "feel good" for the givers and at least a measure
of relief for the parents facing another "treeless" Christmas. Not bad, not
bad at all.
But, is it the best we as a community can do?
What if the unemployed and/or under-employed parents of family X were
offered an opportunity to earn additional purchasing power so that they
could buy what they wanted for their children's Christmas? What if these
anxious parents were sent out to work sites where they could perform
meaningful jobs that improved the quality of life in the community? What if
they were paid $5 to $10 per hour in purchasing power for their labor?
What if, while these eager parents were working in schools, retirement
communities, churches, small businesses, parks and littered vacant lots;
the rest of us were organizing toy drives, collecting funds and making plans
to open a huge Christmas Store for the shopping pleasure of these working
parents? What if during the week before Christmas, these parents received
their pay and were welcomed into the store to use their buying power to
select gifts for their children? Sound too good to be true? Think again.
This is exactly what we are doing during Santability 1997!
Over 300 moms, dads and grandparents have signed on as Community Service
Corps members. They are working all over inner city Dallas making the
community stronger by their labor. In addition, 14 inner city moms have
been employed to serve as "team leaders". These middle management workers
organized their 20-30 member teams and developed all of the reporting, work
assignment and payroll strategies for the project. These special leaders
will not be shopping in the Christmas Store. Instead, corporate sponsors
will provide a "shopping spree" for them at a local mall.
After three years of experience with this approach, we feel the entire
process ends in a big "win" for everyone. Santability - giving parents the
opportunity to be Santa to their own children. What a concept, huh?
We need your help! This year's Christmas Store will need to be the largest
yet. It is not too late for you, your company, your civic club, your
neighborhood or your church to get involved. Here's what you can do to join
the community improvement effort.
- Organize a toy collection drive. Call Susan Vaughn at 214-823-8710 ext 14 to receive an inventory assignment.
- Organize a special collection of funds to be used to purchase toys and
clothing for the store. Instead of buying gifts in your office, club or
Sunday School class, why not collect the funds you would normally spend and
direct them to our store? Why not give a gift to the store in honor of a
friend or family member?
- Become a corporate sponsor of one of our fourteen "team leaders" by making a $1,000 donation to the project. When the Christmas Store opens, your company name and logo will appear on a
special store volunteer's t-shirt, in our next newsletter and on posters
inside the store.
Charity is good. But the miracle of community building occurs when charity
and opportunity combine. Our experience among poor people tells us this is
far better for everyone. If you have questions, please call me (my
extension is 16).