Mamatoga Loves: The Franklin Community Center's Holiday Programs

The holidays can sometimes be stressful. Maybe you have relatives visiting and your house is chaotic, maybe the thought of getting all those presents on the various lists stress you out, maybe it's just the planning and wrapping and running around that can creep up on you. But imagine a different kind of stress. Instead of trying to find that ONE hot toy that is on top of your child's list that is sold out everywhere, imagine that you can't afford any toys. Even the "boring" ones like new pajamas. Imagine instead of stressing out over cooking a meal for the entire extended family that you have no food for a Christmas meal. Imagine the stress a parent must face when having to tell their kids that you are so sorry, but you just couldn't afford any presents this year. The kids then have to go back to school after break and see everyone's new clothes, their new jackets, new boots, new hats. Imagine how those kids feel. Hearing about the new X-Box the kid at the desk next to them got, hearing about the new snowboard they got. The holiday isn't about getting presents, we all know that, but that is a hard pill to swallow for a kid on Christmas morning who receives no gifts at all. Part of what these kids crave is to just be like everyone else. To get presents like everyone else, have a nice Thanksgiving and a nice meal as a family just like everyone else. What means the most to them isn't having the hottest new jeans in the shops, it's just fitting in with their peers.

At the Franklin Community Center you have a chance to help out those families that live right here in our very own city this holiday season. Through their holiday programs there are many ways you and your family can share in the spirit of giving this season. They are in desperate need of donors right now, and the way it works is simple. At the Center, they take gift requests from the children and their parents, and then match them up with generous donors from the area. Donations can be made during regular office hours, Monday – Friday, 9am-4pm (excluding all major holidays).

You can ‘Adopt’ a whole Family for the holidays, simply email or call 587-9826. Each donor will be provided with a wish list from local children, including specific sizes and gift ideas. Donations for their holiday assistance program should be dropped off no later than December 13, 2012. Due to concerns regarding food allergies, all gifts must be unwrapped.

You can also host a toy drive if you're not sure you want to participate in the ‘adopt’ a family program. For those families and children who were not ‘adopted’, FCC prepares gifts from donations of new toys and clothing or gift cards from generous donors. I spoke with Bo Goliber from the Center and she told me: "We are always most in-need of gifts for teen and tween aged kids: gift cards for movies, Dunkin Donuts, Axe body wash, bath and body stuff, accessories, and other cool stuff for that age group. We'll always take general donations of gifts for any group-including new clothing."

We have participated in the adopt a family program, and it was incredibly special to us as a family. The kids really got into the idea, and I was grateful that it taught them that not everyone is lucky enough to get presents, but that all kids deserve a special holiday. It was more than the idea that we were helping out just one specific family, we were just helping out each other. I explained to the kids that we all need each other in different ways in a community. Some families need help with food and clothing, some families need help with donations to a charitable program or volunteer time, some families need help by just being good neighbors, but that it is a community, and we should all look out for each other.

So whether it is adopting a whole family or donating one toy to a toy drive, let's help make the holidays special for everyone in our community. It's easy to say "What if it was you", but it's true. I try to imagine what it would feel like to have no presents, no food for Thanksgiving, and being a child, having no power to do anything about it. I imagine what a huge difference that one turkey would make, or that one little gift. Let's try to help out as much as we can, even if it's one little item, because it will make a huge impact on them, and on you.