Oh, Christmas! The joy of giving and getting presents, family get-togethers, the inner warmth of the season surpassing the outer cold as people show how much they care for one another.
But for some Waukesha County children, experiencing the joy of Christmas would be difficult without the help of community “angels”.
Enabled by the long-running , volunteers like Lisa Nasinnyk, Waukesha, are already hard at work helping Santa.
Nasinnyk knows well the impact an organization like the Christmas Clearing Council can have on a child’s Christmas.
“Kids need something to believe in, especially when Mom and Dad have fallen on hard times, to let them know that things are going to get better, and that the community cares about them,” Nasinnyk said.
As one of six children of a single mom who became ill and later died of cancer, without such organizations Nasinnyk’s childhood Christmases would have been worse. Nasinnyk grew-up in the Westlawn housing project on Milwaukee’s north side – infamous “projects” that have subsequently been bulldozed.
When times got really hard, they got presents that were old toys from their toy box, re-wrapped for the new holiday.
“My mother just didn’t have anything else to give and did the best she could with what she had,” Nasinnyk said.
Other times, service organizations would help the children, allowing them to receive at least one new toy for Christmas.
But even with the struggles the family had, Nasinnyk’s mother pushed giving back to the community. Despite their hardships and with many examples, her mother taught the spirit of giving, something carried on by her children after her death.
The best parts of volunteering through Christmas Clearing Council is knowing that the gifts are going to go to someone who needs it and that it’s families helping other families.
“It feels good to give back and being able to give back,” Nasinnyk said. “I’m just thankful for organizations like this.”
Nasinnyk has even enlisted the help of her coworkers at Enercon Industries Corp. in Menomonee Falls. Last year, she held a toy drive, collecting almost two cars full of toys from employees at the small company for the toy shop. She also held a bake sale.
This year, she’s helping in the office and sponsoring a family.
Bringing Christmas spirit alive
Christmas Clearing Council matches people willing to help with others to provide Christmas presents to their family. Referred by social service organizations throughout the county or by school counselors or social workers, the recipients have been vetted as genuinely in need of help.
“I had one woman who said she didn’t know how she was going to tell her children that Santa wasn’t going to come. But now he will,” Nasinnyk said. “When you see the parents’ faces or hear the relief in their voices, it brings the spirit so much more alive.”
Volunteering in the office, Nasinnyk has spoken to at least three recent recipients this year who want to return the favor and “keep the gift going.”
According to Ruth Page Jones, executive director of the Christmas Clearing Council, last year the organization coordinated giving for 4,500 children in 1,900 families. This year, they are already seeing a higher number of applications and fewer sponsors.
Ways to help out
The organization coordinates direct sponsorship, matching children in need with people – individuals, families or service groups –willing to give. When sponsoring a child, the donor calls the parents to find out what the child wants for Christmas, spends at least $60 purchasing gifts, wraps and delivers the gifts to the family. The deadline to sponsor a child for Christmas is Dec. 13.
The Christmas Cleaning Council also collects toys to hold a Toy Shop, staffed with youth and community volunteers, for families who do not receive a sponsor.
can be found throughout Waukesha County: in Big Bend, Brookfield, Delafield, Eagle, Genesee Depot, Hartland, Menomonee Falls, Mukwonago, Muskego, New Berlin, Oconomowoc, Pewaukee, Sussex, Vernon and Waukesha.
For teens, who are harder to buy for than little children, the Christmas Clearing Council purchases gift cards. Last year, the organization gave more than 500 gift cards to teenagers.
Suggested donations for the Toy Shop include infant clothing and blankets, pre-school board books, toys for children ages birth to 9, gift items for pre-teens ages 10 to 12, books, crafts, sporting equipment, hats and waterproof mittens, $20 gift cards for teenagers. All donations should be new.
People who have a need and are experiencing difficulty should contact their school counselor or other social service agencies. The Christmas Clearing Council is accepting applications until Nov. 23.
Even children can get involved to help other children through Christmas Clearing Council.
Even kids give back to help others
As part of a community service project, Megan Bartz of Mukwonago has collected $514 for the organization to give gift cards for teenagers.
For her birthday, she asked people to donate instead of giving her presents. She also solicited donations from her family and her tae kwon do studio, . Bartz is collecting for Christmas Clearing Council as part of community service she needs to earn her black belt in tae kwon do.
When decided what to do for her service project, Christmas Clearing Council was a natural choice. Megan has been doing something for the organization for last four years, starting with a Girl Scout project in second grade.
More than that, though, she has a simple reason for helping, one that every child can understand:
“Everybody likes getting presents at Christmas,” Megan said.