Less than a week from the deadline, an alarmingly high number of Decatur Spirit of Christmas Angels await adoption. Of the 156 Angels displayed since Monday, only about 20 have been fully sponsored.
Campaign organizers speculate the lull following Thanksgiving, or perhaps confusion about newly implemented procedures, may be factors. With the campaign’s primary purpose in mind, Decatur Spirit of Christmas committee members adopted the voucher system implemented in Bridgeport last year.
In lieu of presents, only money is being collected for the Angels, and that money will be converted to vouchers – $100 per child – that parents can redeem for toys and clothes only at Wal-Mart during specific times on certain days.
“We heard a presentation by Sylvia (Elenburg) with the Bridgeport campaign, and she talked about how this new system returned some dignity to the parents,” committtee chair Erica Eison said. “We asked ourselves as a committee, ‘Who do we want to help?’ Ultimately, it’s the children, yes. But if we can help the rest of the family, too, then we’d like to.”
Organizers hope that reinstating that dignity will better capture the campaign’s purpose.
“We want the kids in need to get exactly what they need and want,” Eison said. “Who better knows that than the parents? This way, the child gets exactly what they want and need, clothes that fit, clothes they like and toys they want. And even if the parents didn’t pay for it, they got to pick it out, so they still contributed.
“This brings back the true spirit of Christmas.”
Because of the free range of the system, committee members have enacted restrictions and will closely monitor adherance to prevent violations.
This year’s total of 156 Angels – almost half of last year’s number – is one example. Committee members devised a more rigorous application process to help ensure that selected recipients are those “truly in need.”
Parents can redeem the vouchers during various times – some mornings, some afternoons, some evenings – on five designated days beginning next week. While parents can do the shopping on their own, Spirit of Christmas volunteers and Wal-Mart employees will verify all purchases.
“People think that we’re just giving away $100 Wal-Mart gift cards, but that’s not the case,” Eison said. “There are several shopping guidelines.”
Only clothes and toys for the child can be purchased – no electronics or food. (However, Wise Electric Co-op will provide each family with a box of food.)
“And we’re requiring that they get both clothes and toys. We outlined that in the letter,” Eison said. “They have to get what was written on the application – solely clothing and toys for the child, nothing for the parents. A Spirit of Christmas volunteer will verify every purchase.”
Donors may give any dollar amount, Eison adding that $25 has seemed to be the most common. Organizers hope to have enough donations for all 156 Angels by Wednesday.
“We do appreciate everyone who donates, no matter how small or large the amount they give,” Eison said. “The people of Decatur are great. They are giving. We hope (the low donations numbers) are because of confusion or because people are waiting. But we strongly believe they’ll step up.”
Decatur Spirit of Christmas Angels are available for adoption through Wednesday, Dec. 5, at any financial institution in town:
- Citibank – 910 W. Business 380
- DATCU – 600 W. Ford St.
- First Financial Bank – 608 W. Hale St.
- Legend Bank – 1706 S. FM 51
- North Texas Bank – 661 W. Thompson St.
- State National Bank of Texas – 1405 W. Business 380
- all three Wells Fargo branches – 306 W. Main St. (downtown); 1409 S. FM 51 (south branch); and Wal-Mart (in-store)