By Maddy Vitale
Financial pressures and stress leave little for some to feel upbeat about on the holidays. But with organizations such as Waves of Caring and the Ocean City Ecumenical Council, the worry of not having toys for your children Christmas day, or food on the table, was eased Monday morning.
Families entered Ocean City Tabernacle’s Kull Youth Center through the early afternoon to pick up bags of presents from the Waves of Caring toy drive and food store gift cards distributed by the Ecumenical Council.
Maria Guzman, of Ocean City, with her 2-year-old son Juan in tow, was handed a large bag. Inside were toys for her active little one.
“It’s really a good program. I have come here for three years now,” Guzman said smiling, as Juan giggled.
Guzman has the benefit of knowing her family will have gifts under the tree, thanks in part to the Waves of Caring program.
It began with her filling out a form at Social Services. Parents or guardians can put their child’s age and gender on the form, which helps with toy selection. Each bag contains about six toys. In addition to gifts, Guzman also picked up a letter with Acme gift cards to be used for Christmas dinner, or anything else she and her family need.
Ocean City Fire Chief Jim Smith, chairman of Waves of Caring, said this year, because of the generous donations of the community, 69 families with 150 children, were expected to benefit from the toy drive.
“Sometimes we are the only Christmas these kids have,” Smith said as he picked up a bag of goodies to bring to the table for a family. “Christmas is a special day. I couldn’t imagine not having Christmas. That’s why we do this – so that each child gets toys. That’s what it is all about.”
Waves of Caring is a city-sanctioned charity that collects and distributes toys around the Christmas holiday for children of underprivileged Ocean City families. Smith said this is the 24th year of the program. The organization often works in partnership with other organizations, such as the Ocean City Ecumenical Council, to help those in need.
Some families came just for the toys Monday, others for the gift cards, and others for both. Kris Stanwood, chairwoman of the gift card committee for the Ocean City Ecumenical Council said, “We work hard for the Christmas distribution of the gift cards. The intent originally was to provide money for people to buy Christmas dinner, but some people might want to use it for other things, and that is fine. It is meant to help them in any way possible.”
Each envelope contained anywhere from three $10 Acme gift cards on up, depending on family size.
Albina Hernandez, of Ocean City, brought her happy little girl, Andrea, 1, with her to pick up a bag of toys and gift cards.
She put her daughter down for a moment, as Stanwood handed her an envelope. Andrea immediately went over to her bag of toys, grabbed it and smiled.