‘Christmas for Kids’ program needs volunteers


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By Bernie Delinski
Staff Writer

Published: Friday, November 20, 2009 at 3:30 a.m.

Debbie Dixon is bracing for a great number of requests coming her way over the next few weeks.

Dixon, a Florence woman who founded the Christmas for Kids program 17 years ago, says some 200 local children are signed up this year.

Demand is expected to be high again this year. Two events – a Dec. 5 motorcycle ride and Dec. 12 auction – will help provide some gifts and money this year, but volunteers still are needed.

“The requests don’t start pouring in until after Thanksgiving, but we already have a lot, so we’re expecting a big demand,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if that number doubles in the Shoals. A bunch of kids out there need us.”

Dixon started Christmas for Kids after she had to spend the holiday without her three daughters because she was incarcerated for six months at Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, for writing bad checks.

The program started small and has grown to the point where more than 1,000 children in Alabama are served annually. It also is spreading nationwide, with as many as 17 states creating Christmas for Kids programs, Dixon said.

The program calls for incarcerated parents to write a Christmas list for their children. This allows the parents to play a role in the process. Volunteers purchase the items on the list and give them to the children.

It is common for the volunteers and children to meet and the volunteer presents the gifts. Dixon said fast-food restaurants and pizza places are common meeting locations.

The Dec. 5 police-escorted motorcycle ride starts at noon at Foster Harley-Davidson, on U.S. 72 in Tuscumbia, Dixon said. Riders are asked to bring an unwrapped toy for the program. The event includes live entertainment by Iguana Party, Mary Mason and Archie Bell. The auction will be Dec. 12 at Muscle Shoals High School.

“These are two things we’ve wanted to do for a while, and everything is coming together this year to give us more exposure,” Dixon said. “Everyone is really excited about it.”

She receives help from individuals, businesses and groups. As an example, Dixon said the Christian Student Center at the University of North Alabama traditionally helps deliver gifts, and is sponsoring 15 children this year.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the program, donating to the auction or participating in the ride can call Dixon at 443-1297.

“This has gotten so big,” she said. “There’s a lot of good folks here in the Shoals, and – I don’t know if I tell them this enough – I appreciate every one of them.

“I can’t stand the thought of one child waking up and not getting something for Christmas. These kids do time just like the parents, and they haven’t done anything.”

Tina Brady, who assists with the program, said everyone’s support is needed.

“You can sign up to take as many children as you wish,” she said. “You’re given a list of what the child needs. It’s like going to the Angel Tree and taking a name down and buying gifts.

“We have a lot of people who help, but there’s always a need for more. Last year, Debbie had to turn some children away because there wasn’t enough. We don’t want to do that this year.”

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