The reality of the Christmas Assistance program
Editorial Note: The Sacramento Press is in no way affiliated with any of the organizations mentioned in this article.
Most of us have heard about the Salvation Army’s toy drive for local needy families. Through the media we see a family that is very happy to receive several presents given to children that otherwise would go without. All of this generous charity work begins with expensive marketing, fundraising events, donations, and of course volunteers. The most important part of this charity process is the families with children in need.
When a family signs up for Christmas assistance from the Salvation Army they must provide certain documents, such as a proof of income, proof of residency, ID, etc. When a family signs up they must go to the Salvation Army sign-up location. The location for this year was on the far side of north Sacramento. Families had to spend the day on a bus in order to reach the sign-up location or, as with most families, have vehicle transportation. That means a family spent at least $6 for an all-day bus pass or they spent approximately $6 for gas depending upon how far they lived from the sign-up location.
Once the families have completed their sign-up they are very happy and excited in anticipation for what they believe will be a wonderful Christmas for their children. These children are so hopeful and happy that they will now have presents under their Christmas tree, if they even have a tree.
Now comes the big day that they are all looking forward to picking up their presents. Each of these families that signed up must have a vehicle to go out to Cal Expo and pick up their gifts. That means families who are disadvantaged to the point that they do not own a car will not likely receive any Christmas assistance. If they do not own a car then they may be able to give a friend some gas money for a ride out to Cal Expo to pick up their children’s presents. So far, signing up and picking up the gifts has cost the family approximately $15 – $20. But this process will give children a Christmas, so who cares about how much it will cost? Right?
When families arrive at Cal Expo to pick up their gifts, they hand their ticket to a volunteer who leaves and returns with a large white plastic bag with the Salvation Army logo on it. Inside of the bag is one new toy with an estimated price of $8 to $10. Also, two additional very small toys, one new and one used toy, estimated price of $5, are included in the bag for a total of three.
Needless to say, the excitement of a blessed Christmas has dissipated. These two or three unwrapped toys are what that child will receive for Christmas. It is to late for them to look elsewhere for Christmas assistance and what little money they had was probably spent on gas getting to and from Cal Expo.
I, Sacramento Cmmunity Family Resources know all of this because I helped a family go through the process. I concede that the Salvation Army’s Christmas assistance program is a good program, but I will now personally go out and buy the child some secret Santa toys who would otherwise have a very sad Christmas. I am not sure where the blessing is at when more money is spent getting to and from the Christmas assistance program than is spent on the donated gifts. Maybe some reader feedback can explain the math.