Christmas was an exciting morning for Naquesha Harris and her children this year.
Harris and her children were among about 200 families who received presents from the Christmas Store, an outreach program that provides items for families in need during back-to-school, Thanksgiving and Christmas times. Items were distributed to families Dec. 21 at First Baptist Church of North Augusta’s Family Life Center.
It was Harris’ first year looking to the outreach for Christmas help.
“It means a lot to me,” she said, “and it also shows me that there are people out there who are caring and are willing to help those who are less fortunate.”
The outreach started in 1984 through Community Ministry of North Augusta. When the organization was no longer able to continue the program because of the increasing number of people seeking assistance about 10 years ago, Louvenia Mathews wanted to ensure that the program continued. A group of volunteers now runs the program.
“A lot of people don’t have transportation, and if we didn’t have it, people would have to travel to Aiken or Augusta" to receive help, she said. “So, for me, it was very important to have this here.”
Families applied for Christmas assistance in October. A committee for the Christmas Store used the state’s poverty guidelines to determine who qualified for assistance, said Mathews.
“(A) majority of the persons that we serve are on some kind of assistance,” she said. “They are single moms or have children and otherwise, without help, they wouldn’t be able to get something for their kids.”
Sponsors bought items for the children based on the child’s age, clothing size and three items on the child’s Christmas list.
This year, families also received turkeys and other food items, which were distributed by Golden Harvest Food Bank. Bridgestone Firestone provided turkeys, and Target provided juice boxes at the Dec. 21 giveaway. Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and individuals also donated funds to purchase additional turkeys and other grocery items for the families and for distribution at area food pantries, said Kay Benitez, the South Carolina development officer for Golden Harvest.
To help with future Christmas Store activities, contact Louvenia Mathews at (803) 474-3544 or Lori Mathews at (803) 270-8960.