By Aundreana Jones-Poole
Holt Journal Staff Reporter
Families in Holt are finding relief during the holiday season and beyond through a local non-profit organization.
The Give-A-Kid Projects, which first began as just Give-A-Kid-A-Coat, was started in 1984 and has since expanded out to Give-A-Kid-A-Christmas, Give-A-Kid-A-Backpack, and Give-A-Kid 360. It serves many children who live in or attend Holt schools.
Last year 453 children were served by the Christmas program and 898 adults with a household items store.
“Right now we are predicting that we will surpass what we did last year; so what we really need is for people in the community to adopt a family,” said Kris Hummel, President of the Give-A-Kid Projects. “Last year the Give-A-Kid program spent $8,000 ourselves on Christmas to make sure that the kids were taken care of.”
According to Give-A-Kids Projects board member Tim Currin, the organization works closely with the schools to find the families most in need.
“We have a great work relationship with Holt Public Schools,” said Currin. “What we mainly do is send fliers home with the students in what they call their Friday folders about three months prior to our programs.”
According to Currin, the fliers that they give have all of the information that the families need in order to know how to sign up.
“They give them to their mom or dad or whoever their parent is, then the parents contact us and come out to our building at 4064 Holt Road and we have them fill out forms,” said Currin.
To ensure that these resources aren’t being abused and are available to those families who genuinely need them the most, families who want to participate in the program have to be verified.
“They have to supply the sheets that we have them fill out with their income, they also have to prove residency and their social security numbers,” said Hummel. “And that is all submitted into the Salvation Army database; schools also give us names.”
Jessica Culp has utilized the Christmas and coat projects and believes that it has been a wonderful option to have for herself and her two daughters.
“I first heard about it through the school that my daughters attend, Sycamore,” said Culp. “I participated in the Give-A-Kid a Christmas three years in a row.”
During the holiday season, the Give-A-Kid-A-Christmas project reaches out to underprivileged children and families and makes sure that those children receive gifts for Christmas that they otherwise normally wouldn’t.
“We were assigned a day to come back with a number system and pick up our boxes,” said Culp. “It was great.”
Dariel Kipp, a member of the Holt community, has worked with children for 15 years and thinks that this kind of program is good to have, especially for the underprivileged children who she thinks needs it most.
“I grew up poor, so my heart always goes out to programs like that,” said Kipp. “I admire them.”
According to Kipp these kinds of programs are good for the pride of underprivileged children and their self esteems.
“Just the social part of kids, they hear all kinds of kids saying I’m going to get this or I got that afterwards and now they can too,” said Kipp.
“It’s not just a toy, They definitely go back to school with new clothing and are able to say look what I got for Christmas like the other kids,” said Hummel.
According to Hummel, their Christmas project is unlike the other programs in the area in one major way.
“We feel that the Christmas program makes us different because we say that if the child is in school, we don’t care what grade, we will make sure they have a Christmas,” said Hummel. “Salvation Army cuts off at age 13.”
According to Steven Anderson, a professor in the School of Social Work at Michigan State University, a cut-off age for children may not be a good rationale.
“A 15-year-old is no more able to buy things for themselves, if they’re poor, than a 10-year-old,” said Anderson.
Hummel believes that her organization’s approach is much deeper than just a Christmas gift to these kids.
“Kids 14-18 are the ones that drop out of school and thinks nobody cares,” said Hummel. “For this reason we try to give them hope and show that there is someone who loves and cares for them.”
According to Anderson, the older children’s self-esteem may be affected more so than the younger ones.
“There is probably even greater potential for being ostracized on some level plus your mind’s developing and you see things,” said Anderson. “Maybe its more obvious to you and maybe more bittering or depressing as a teenager to see that.”
Additionally, Hummel believes that being able to provide kids with a Christmas seems to do a lot for the well being of parents who aren’t able to provide these things as well.
“How we help the parents is we alleviate the stress of how are we are going to make sure our kids have something at Christmas time,” said Hummel. “You get into the domestic abuse because of all of the stress and everything that goes on and this kind of alleviates that.”
Culp agrees that being able to find help in this program has been a great support for her family.
“I’m just a mom struggling, the only one working at the time, trying to pay bills and pay rent,” said Culp.
“It’s a satisfaction of a little relief like okay, if something should happen, at least my children are going to have a nice Christmas,” he said.
According to Anderson, there is research that suggests that the receipt of certain benefits is related to relieving stress.
“Its pretty intuitive,” said Anderson. “If you’re worrying about whether your kid eats or is non-participatory in certain holidays that’s obviously a stressor and I think that most work would find that stress is associated with bad outcomes.”
In addition to providing things for the children, the projects also collects returned and discontinued items and display merchandise from Bed Bath and Beyond weekly and has a free store around Christmas time where parents can get these items.
“We do this so that parents can come and shop for themselves,” said Hummel. “We also receive shoes from Playmakers that people have returned and give those to people.”
Culp has also utilized this store when picking up Christmas items for her daughters.
“Once you get the stuff, you stand back in line and can pick a certain number of items based on how many people are in your household,” said Culp.
According to Culp, in addition to receiving things from the projects, she also ensures that she gives back to them returning coats and clothes once her kids grow out of them or asking other family members to give back.
“I ask my siblings, who are more well off than me, for coats when their kids grow out of them,” said Culp. “Once the kids grow out of the coats or clothes I always automatically put them in the bin.”
According to Currin, without the support of local businesses and community members, Give-A-Kid Projects wouldn’t be able to help these families in the capacity that they do.
“We have excellent community support,” said Currin. “Approximately 75 percent or maybe more families get adopted out throughout the community and businesses.”
According to Anderson, there is a lot of work that shows that people who make a lot of connections are better off.
“Sometimes non-profit organizations make a lot of connections to other places that aren’t necessarily bureaucracy run and it leads to spin offs of other good things,” said Anderson.
According to Hummel, a continued support from the community is what the program needs to really thrive.
Culp thanks the people who find it necessary to donate to the program and thinks that it is a amazing program that is worth donating to.
“I’m just grateful for the community and that they are able to help,” said Culp.