The holiday season is upon us and for many, today is the starting gate for the race of holiday shopping.
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Every year everyone fusses over finding the perfect gifts for family and friends; wondering what the hottest toys are or what brand new electronics are on the market. Not to mention the ever-present laundry list of “things to do” in preparation of large family gatherings.
In the midst of all this, some seldom stop to think about the child whose only wish is for a warm coat, a blanket, or maybe a simple puzzle on Christmas morning. Luckily, a program in Camino is helping to make sure that children in this situation are given a holiday worth remembering.
Operating under the Camino Community Action Committee, the third annual Christmas Giving Program kicks off Friday, Nov. 23 and will run through Dec. 9.
Founded in 2010 by Nick Van Gilder, now 18 years old, the program aims to help local Camino families in need. With Nick away at college, the program coordinator role has fallen to his younger sister Kristen Van Gilder, a 16-year-old junior at El Dorado High School.
“It’s been a really successful program,” Kristen said. “Even this year, before we got out applications we were getting phone calls asking if we were doing the program still and when it will be happening.”
The Christmas Giving Program required that applications be filled out by children attending Camino School and El Dorado High School. On the applications children specified their age, gender and items they are in need of. This information was transferred onto index cards and placed on three separate Christmas trees. The trees are located at Camino Post Office, Camino School and the Forester Restaurant.
These index cards signify simple wishes from children in the community. Many ask for the most basic of needs such as pajamas, coats, underwear or sweatshirts.
Members of the community are encouraged to stop by any one of the three trees in Camino, take an index card and make a child’s holiday wish come true.
The Santa’s helpers are asked to wrap and label the gifts purchased and drop them off at the Camino Hotel through Dec. 9.
Although it is not required, if you choose to include something extra for a child please do not include anything that may require batteries or additional parts in order to operate as these families may not be able to afford to replace batteries, etc.
“People in the community really look forward to this and they want it to happen,” Kristen said. “I think that’s a good sign that we are doing something positive.”
People are also encouraged to make monetary donations, either in addition to or in lieu of gift donations. Monetary donations are used to purchase the remainder of the gifts listed on index cards that remain on the Christmas trees after the program has concluded.
Checks should be made payable to CCAC and mailed to PO Box 112, Camino, 95709 with Camino Cares written in the memo section. All monetary donations are tax deductible. The Camino Community Action Committee is a non-profit organization.
Previous years have seen an average of 176 children positively affected by the Christmas Giving Program.
Kristen hopes to grow that number with every passing year and the way that will happen is with the help and support of community members.
With the help of the Camino Community Action Committee, Kristen Van Gilder and the Christmas Giving Program offer El Dorado County residents the opportunity to give back to the children of the community.
Supporters of the Christmas Giving Program believe what lies at the heart of the holiday season is not the newest, fastest, technologically advanced smart phone wrapped in a shiny red bow; rather, it’s the grateful, heart-warming smile from someone less fortunate, when a winter coat or a pair of shoes fulfills a Christmas wish.