Christmas Around Towne

Christmas Around Towne

Leah Silva, staff writer, copy editor

As the Christmas season draws near and presents come to mind, volunteering at drives and donating gifts can help the Christmas spirit. To that end, Christmas Around Towne, an organization that established locally for three years, helps less fortunate Folsom residents get the Christmas they deserve.

Jon Ingraham, the director of Kidsfest at Lakeside Church, is in charge of Christmas Around Towne at Lakeside. “[Christmas Around Towne is] a partnership between different organizations to meet the needs of our community of Folsom,” Ingraham said. “We partner together to create a Christmas experience for hundreds of families in our community of Folsom who may have a difficult time providing a holiday experience on their own.”

Before Christmas Around Towne, there weren’t any organizations in Folsom to service these needy families during the holidays. People in Folsom realized this wasn’t right–they should do something to help.

The two qualifications for Christmas Around Towne are that recipients live in Folsom and have a need. For those who meet the requirements, Lakeside takes a certain amount of people for the event, and wait-lists the rest. When Folsom residents show up, they get a voucher which has a certain amount of stars they can spend. Each item is color-coated with how many stars that item takes up. For example, a purple item might cost 15 out of 30 stars, but a yellow item might only cost one star.

After receiving vouchers, all families go to a brunch. There is entertainment such as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, Disney princesses, craft tables, live Christmas music, games, and a talk about Christmas. Then, they are dismissed for the shopping experience. There are six stores: men’s, women’s, teens and sports, kids, babies and toddlers, and toy stores. Lakeside has two services with 400 people in each sitting. If there are leftover gifts from Christmas Around Towne, everyone who was wait listed gets to come shop.

“Instead of being given a gift that’s wrapped that you don’t even see for your child, we are giving families the opportunity to shop for themselves with dignity. You get to pick what your kid would like best out of a room,” Ingraham said.

Vice Mayor Kerri Howell expresses her view. “There’s a lot of people [who] need help and it’s better to give people the means by which to better their life, especially during the holiday season,” Howell said. “When some of us have more than we could ever want, other people don’t have enough. We need to spread the wealth a little bit.”

Felicia Ryman, a sophomore at Vista, donated toys and served by helping with child care at Christmas Around Towne last year. Ryman enjoys serving at church events, seeing new kids, and inviting them to Lakeside. She wanted to serve at Christmas Around Towne because she knew that the families needed help.

Lakeside has partnered with Powerhouse Ministries, a ministry in Folsom that reaches the underserved communities, and 48 other organizations to pull off this event.

Vista del Lago is also helping with Christmas Around Towne. The senior care baskets that advisories made are going to the organization.

Heidi Schultz, a teacher at Vista, had the idea for senior care baskets for Christmas Around Towne. Powerhouse Ministries came to visit student government and they talked about two groups that needed help: teens and senior citizens. Vista wanted to focus on one group to help, so the advisory senators helped during the basket making process for senior citizens for Christmas Around Towne.

Christmas Around Towne is important to us as individuals in many ways.

“To me, [Christmas Around Towne is important because] everyone deserves Christmas,” Ingrahm said. “Everyone deserves the joy that comes with Christmas and the ability to get a gift or give a gift to their family to show their love appreciation. It encourages generosity in both the people donating gifts and working it and the guests because they are being blessed by what was given to them so they are able to see what it is like to get stuff, but also give back. We’ve had people come to the event last year that then served at the after care event because they were so moved by all the generosity that they wanted to serve the waitlist. There was this homeless guy that came back to powerhouse–it was his first introduction into this organization, and now he has a house through the relationship that was built through this event. It’s life changing, that’s why I would say it’s important to the Folsom community because it’s making a difference in children’s lives, and adults lives, and not just in Christmas, people’s lives are changing by throwing a simple event.”

“[My favorite part about Christmas Around Towne is] letting the parents go shop for their kids while we watch them, and they don’t have to worry where their kid is because they know [their child is] in a safe place with us,” Ryman said.

Kristen Quinton, another teacher at Vista, also shares her views. “[I think the senior care baskets are important because] it’s a nice way to support our community,” Quinton said. “The senators and myself really liked that it is going to senior citizens living in Folsom.”

Folsom Councilman Ernie Sheldon loves helping during the Christmas season. “I think [volunteering is] highlighted at Christmas because it’s very sad to be a second-class citizen, especially on Christmas when everyone is bubbling, the music is going, the atmosphere, and the church,” Councilman Sheldon said. “It hurts. It has to be sad. I believe whatever we can do to make anybody and everybody have a better Christmas, I’m all for it.”

Folsom Mayor Andy Morin includes his thoughts about Christmas Around Towne. “The community response to efforts like [Christmas Around Towne] are always amazing, but never surprising to me,” Mayor Morin said. “This December Christmas and Holiday season endeavor is the start of another tradition of caring and volunteering in Folsom.”

To help support Christmas Around Towne before the event starts, you can donate gifts. Lakeside Church says, “1,500 toys are needed ranging from $5 to $40. We are looking for new items still in the box or with the label attached. Toys can be dropped off in the back of the auditorium during weekend gatherings, or at our front office during the week.” There is also the option of volunteering on Dec. 9 at the event. After Christmas Around Towne, if there is an after-care event, volunteering at that service is also an option. Last year, Christmas Around Towne served about 990 people; this year they will probably serve up to 1300. Christmas Around Towne is hoping for 400 volunteers and 6,500 gifts donated this year. If you are interested in helping at Christmas Around Towne, contact Jon Ingraham at [email protected].