Neighborhood GIFT Helps Local Families
Provides holiday cheer for less fortunate
Helping their fellow neighbors this holiday season, the Neighborhood GIFT was held Tuesday in six different locations. And what makes this year's annual gift and food distribution different from others is the growing numbers of people across the city who are in need.
With the economy still in recovery mode, for most of us we are a paycheck away from being financially strapped. It’s a scary scenario 6,000 families in Anchorage are facing, which is why they came to the Neighborhood GIFT on Tuesday to get a hand in making sure their kids can have a merry Christmas.
When it comes to getting Christmas gifts for his family, Bill Cameron is on a mission – a job he's determined to finish despite money hardships to give his three kids at least one thing under the tree this year. It’s something more and more families in Anchorage are experiencing, which is why they are taking advantage of the Neighborhood GIFT program. “Welfare helps me pay rent and put food on the table,” said Cameron, who is a single parent taking care of teenagers. “It’s everybody, everybody is going through it, it’s really rough.”
If you drive to the other side of town, in South Anchorage, the situations at Anchorage City Church are the same. Families like Tamah Haynes’ are struggling to make it, and they are leaning on the food and gifts to help them get by. “I don't have to worry about the dinner as much and at least one special item, so it helps a lot,” said Haynes, who came to get a gift for her 13-year-old daughter. “It’s difficult, I was out of work for about a year and a half. So I just got a job but I had some medical problems so I kind of need the extra help.”
“Poverty isn't isolated, its spread throughout our city, its just people don't always see it,” said Captain Doreen Freeman, who works for the Salvation Army of Alaska and has ran the Neighborhood GIFT South Anchorage site for three years. “We have a lot of working poor right now where I’ve had several people come in this year and say this is the first time they've ever had to get assistance.”
It’s help the community is happy to give, because every family deserves to celebrate Christmas and not have to worry at least one day of the year. “It’s been really amazing to see them kind of light up, that somebody actually cares and takes the time out of there day to help them out,” said Taylor Marcus, a volunteer who does Neighborhood GIFT with her sisters and grandmother. It’s help from the over 2,000 volunteers who make the Neighborhood GIFT program happen to ensure a Merry Christmas for the 6,000 families that came in: an increase of almost 20 percent from last year.