Shopping Event for Community Children a Success

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Shopping at Sharing is Caring.
Photo by Matt Hamilton, The Daily Citizen

Shopping at Sharing is Caring.
Anne Hammack, left, helps Liliana Gonzalez shop for gifts during the Sharing is Caring event Thursday at the North Georgia Fairgrounds.

by Shaka Cobb

A hair straightener, scarf and Hello Kitty backpack. Robert Sparks found something for each of his daughters while shopping at the Dalton-Whitfield County Sharing is Caring Community Christmas store Saturday afternoon.

Sparks and his wife Virginia came to the North Georgia Fairgrounds to shop for their children.

“We had a great day with a lot of families that came through Thursday and today,” Carlean Mutter said.

Mutter is the coordinator for Mutter is the coordinator for Children and Families First Community Partnership for Dalton/Whitfield, Inc., the local Georgia Family Connection Collaborative.

Sharing is Caring is a community-based project designed to provide Christmas for children whose families’ circumstances might prevent them from receiving Christmas gifts.

Sparks said he knows what it’s like to need help and appreciated the opportunity to shop for his kids.

“It definitely helps us out,” he said. “We had some hard times, that’s why we signed up in the first place.”

Sparks said he’s already referred other families.

“The program is awesome, it will help a lot of people.”

Parents are required to attend classes to earn certificates to shop in the Christmas store. Some of the topics covered are coupons, budgeting meals, communicating with the child’s school and homework.

“Families take those classes so they are doing something to make their family life better, then get to shop for new items,” Mutter said.

All items are free and made possible by donations from local churches, businesses and organizations. Earlier this month the Wal-Mart Foundation gave the organization a check for $2,500 to purchase items.

Families also receive a gift card to local grocery stores to buy Christmas dinner.

Amy Reyes said with only her husband working at the moment Community Christmas is big help.

“We struggle a lot,” the mother of five said.

Reyes said it feels good to know that her children won’t feel left out.

“I can actually have Christmas now.”

Saturday was the second day families were able to shop during their appointed times. The store was open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and last Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m.

Mutter said 280 families shopped on Saturday and 152 on Thursday.

Veronica Rodriguez is one of the volunteers. She said she’s been busy folding clothes and helping parents find the right size for their children.

“My sister volunteered last year so I came to help out,” said Rodriguez.

Forty-one cadets from Dalton High School JROTC volunteered also.

Battalion Commander Rebecca Beltran said they helped families shop and load items in their vehicles.

Mutter said some or the cadets helped to set up and served as translators for Spanish-speaking parents. “They’ve been here all day and a great help,” she said.

Beltran said they are always looking for an opportunity to volunteer. “The main priority is to help our cadets become better citizens.”

Mutter said the two-day shopping event was a success. Any items left will be taken to the Salvation Army to be distributed to local families later.

There is also the possibility that families may call for last-minute help.

“All the items will absolutely get used,” Mutter said. “If by some odd reason they don’t, the Salvation Army will store them to use next year.”

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Georgia Family Connection is a statewide network with a Collaborative in all 159 counties.