The holiday season is synonymous with charitable giving but COVID-19 restrictions have axed many programs dependent upon volunteer power or face-to-face interaction, forcing many organizations to rethink or cancel their events.
However, there are two big events geared toward helping disadvantaged children within the community, that have found a temporary work-around for a difficult challenge.
The first event, The Lions Club Holiday Shopping Spree, is a community favorite as select children nominated through various social programs are invited to spend an evening with an adult chaperone as they spend $100 on much-needed clothing items, including shoes. The event was staged for many years at Kmart but with the retail giant closing in 2019, the kids made the trek to Kohl’s in Riverbank last year.
However, this year, with COVID-19 restrictions, it was near-impossible to figure out an in-person option for the event.
So, the decision was made to make the move to gift cards — a decision that wasn’t made lightly, according to Oakdale Lions Club president Jim Austin.
“We raise funds all year for the kids and we didn’t want the kids to miss out,” Austin said.
For many children, the Oakdale Lions Club shopping spree is their best chance to get new shoes and warm winter coats.
Another popular program, one that often works hand-in-hand with the Oakdale Lions Club, is the Center for Human Services (CHS) Annual Angel Tree. With the coronavirus pandemic being the uninvited guest to everyone’s holiday plans, the 10th annual event also plans to turn to gift cards for the participants.
There’s still time to donate to the CHS event. There are several sites accepting gift card donations for the drive-thru distribution, which will be held later at the Atlas Court Christmas light event.
Unfortunately, due to COVID, the officials at CHS admitted there’s one more change they had to make.
“We are shrinking our project as well,” said Tamberly Stone, Center for Human Services Program Manager. “We will be serving only children whose families are connected and engaged in services currently with our office. We wish we could serve everyone but this year that is not possible.”
While disappointing, Stone said, “This pandemic has caused us to be creative and innovative in our approach. We are simply grateful we can have our event still and make it fun for our families. We hope it is a win-win for our donors and our families. We want this holiday season to be special for everyone. It will be different but we will still be doing what we do best; loving on our community.”
The Angel Tree project is accepting gift card donations of up to $50 from the following places: Target, Walmart and Amazon. The last day to donate is Monday, Dec. 7 at the following locations: Oakdale Family Resource and Counseling Center, Learning Tree Preschool, The Oakdale Leader, Pak Mail, Steves Chevrolet, Get Fit, Fit Republic, and Pure Joy Salon.