For more than three decades, Warsaw’s Kiwanis Club has made the holiday season a little brighter for area families in need, by helping to place Christmas presents under their trees.
The organization has been purchasing presents for needy children for more than 30 years. Gifts are purchased from Walmart and personally presented to the families by Kiwanis.
Former Kiwanis President Vanessa McCormick has been in charge of the project since 2005.
“It gives you a real holiday spirit when you get to help someone make a merry Christmas holiday for their kids,” McCormick said.
Each year about a dozen Kiwanis members gather at the Warsaw Walmart in order to buy gifts.
McCormick said Kiwanis looks for people to recommend families who should receive gifts.
Presents are given to families in need of some sort of help, but typically won't ask for it.
“We want to fill that gap,” McCormick said.
She added that gifts are not purchased for families who are already receiving some sort of aid for Christmas.
The number of children for whom Kiwanis purchases gifts each year varies anywhere from 18 to 45, and the club spends about $75 per child.
Each child also receives a pair of pajamas and other items he or she may need, such as a winter coat, clothes or boots, in addition to toys.
“If they ask for something real specific, we try to get that,” McCormick said.
Kiwanis determines the necessary gifts by sending out an application asking for a child’s name, age, size, likes and necessities.
Two guidelines are set for which families will receive Kiwanis’ help.
First, gifts are purchased for children age 10 and younger, since children tend to stop believing in Santa after they reach that age. A waiting period of 5 years has been established so the club helps different families each year.
If there are kids in a household who are both under and over age 10, Kiwanis does make an exception.
“We don’t not get something for kids who are 12 or 14,” McCormick said. “We take care of all kids, but we don’t get them as much as we get for the younger kids.”
During some years, Kiwanis receives help from outside organizations like the Warsaw Ski Club and Warsaw Varsity Cheerleading squad. McCormick said the cheerleaders will most likely help out Kiwanis again this year.
The Wyoming Valley Motorcycle Club has also helped out in the past couple years. People can either donate a toy or a dollar to be used for purchasing toys to the club, and in turn, the motorcycle club will donate toys to Kiwanis.
If a Kiwanis member has a teenage child, they will try to bring them along, McCormick said, so Kiwanis has a better understanding of what younger kids would want. She said the club also encourages the teenagers to bring their friends for additional help.
This year Kiwanis will be shopping for the needy at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2 at Walmart. It takes about an hour to an hour and a half to shop, and Kiwanis personally delivers the gifts to families.
Kiwanis used to wrap the presents but stopped about 15 years ago, so parents can see what has been purchased to avoid duplicating gifts.
Each family will also receive a gift certificate to purchase a holiday meal from Save-A-Lot.