Wenatchee Church Helping Brighten Holidays at Area Schools
Grace City Church is holding it's Annual Gift For Kids for 2022 to help approximately 900 kids throughout the region during the holidays. The program is a partnership with family advocates in local schools like Veronica Mendoza, who serves families at Mission View Elementary in Wenatchee.
Pastor Adam James from Grace City Church says the advocates at area school districts have identified students who are considered "unattended" in their schools and in need.
Similar to a Giving Tree project, Grace City Church members pick up a tag at one of their services and shop for that individual student's wish or needs designated on the tag. Students are not identified beyond their boys or girls clothing size and their school. Mendoza and other family advocates play the role of Santa and help distribute the gifts to kids and their families.
The Gifts For Kids has humble beginnings in 2017. "We adopted one school, just a few of our small groups of the church got together. We had just learned about unintended kids right here in our valley".
James described "unattended" students as those that don't have permanent addresses. "They may be couch surfing or jump from bedroom to bedroom or in a shelter in a car literally homeless" Hames added. The revelation was shocking to learn this is the school "where our own kids went". Gift For Kids in 2017 helped 18 kids at one school.
The Gift For Kids helped 17 Kids the second year at the same school, James said program was expanded was expanded church wide. and expanded to all the Wenatchee elementary and middle schools in Wenatchee. James said Grace City Church members served 300 Kids at eight schools in 2019 and then 2020
In 2021, Eastmont schools were added and a total of 600 children benefitted from Gifts For Kids giving. James says this year in addition to serving kids in the Wenatchee and Eastmont School Districts , "We are adding Rock Island, Cashmere, Entiat, Orondo, Waterville, Palisades, and Quincy. So we've got 27 schools participating, and we're going to impact up to 1200 students this year"
Veronica Mendoza is starting her 23rd year at Mission View Elementary where is has been a family advocate for 13 years. She has seen the need growing "When school starts, now, I have my eyes out for those families, I like to hear their stories". Mendoza says many families are appreciative but will frequently say "we are fine, please, pass that opportunity to some someone else".
Mendoza says she is grateful for the partnership "We had a tradition of putting on a Christmas dinner for our families and we invited about 50 families for Christmas dinner, giving each child a small gift". The dinner tradition ended when COVID hit. Mendoza said "after Grace City Church, reached out to us, it's been not only a small gift, it's been abundance of blessings and gifts, you know, a way of God helping us through church members and community, people who would like to support this kind of vision of giving".
James says Grace City has approached expanding the program a year at a time. "Surely there are others that aren't on the list yet. We'd love to get them on the list and do what we can. And we got a great team helping out"
Grace City Church has also partnered with Hooked On Toys where the Wenatchee retailer offered discounts for purchase of items on the Gifts For Kids tags
James says the delivery of Gift For Kids is very rewarding. "We've seen the family advocate break down in tears and just be so grateful the impact it's had on the school, on the administration, on the team" He said advocates like Mendoza wish they could do more for these kids and have that community support is a common sentiment. "It's the favorite day of the year to get to deliver these gifts and bring this blessing to these families and these children and, and so we love to support those kids, but also support the family advocates and to encourage them".
Mendoza agrees "It's a joyful feeling. It fills your heart it brings happiness and the gratitude from the parents and the kids you know wow they're expressions they're some say I don't know how to thank you enough"
James adds This is unacceptable right here in our town, that there will be kids who go without a gift and expression of grace and love at Christmas time". He stresses that there is no religious material distributed. "It's just blessing these kids, right where they're at no strings attached".