Christmas in July
The concept of Christmas in July came about in 2001 when then Kiwanis Division 23 Lt. Governor, Dr. Celia Earle, performed research on the plight of homeless children in Broward County, Florida. She discovered that there were hundreds of the County’s students who could not list a home address because they were in shelters. This does not include the hundreds of homeless children under the age of five. She also realized that their number one need was underwear, followed by shoes, and then clothing. She implored the other Kiwanis clubs in the Division to make a difference in the lives of these unfortunate children from newborns to age 19 and they bought into the idea. She also reached out to the Broward County Board of County Commissioners who embraced the concept and set up collection facilities at their court houses. Thus, Christmas in July was born. This event would provide a ray of hope to children who do not end up in these homeless facilities due to any fault of their own, but due to unfortunate circumstances. It would show them that others truly care about their plight.
On the event day, in addition to Kiwanians and other volunteers from the community, Broward County Commissioners, as well as elected officials from other Cities, are in attendance to show that they care about these families. The success of this project is living proof that together we can make a difference in the lives of those in need.
Each homeless shelter or facility is contacted repeatedly to provide the name, age, gender, underwear size, clothing size, and shoe size of every single homeless child, so that the gift packages can be personalized for each child. It takes the planning committee about seven to eight months to prepare adequately for this event. Preparation includes working closely with shelters and facilities, seeking sponsorship and donations from local organizations and businesses (whether monetary or in-kind) through advertisements, letters and word-of-mouth, locating a packing facility, shopping for the items, storing the goods in a central location, preparing labels with the children’s names and relevant information, packing the personalized bags, transporting them to the facility, and arranging for entertainment and food for the event day. The children only receive new items. Santa(s) and his helpers are on site to distribute the gifts to the children. On the event day, at the very end, families can also obtain additional items for the children in a specified grab bag area.