WBKR is holding the 43rd annual Christmas Wish program during the holidays, in which volunteers come together to provide presents and holiday dinners for underprivileged individuals and families across Daviess County.
Barb Birgy has been running the program for years and explained the process to Owensboro Times on Friday as she continued to organize gifts and direct a handful of volunteers from U.S. Bank on where to store items.
“People have a lot of different options. You can fill out a letter if you’re in need, or you can fill out a letter for someone else with needs but who might not come forward and say they need anything,” she said. “That’s how the process starts — people submit letters starting in mid-November and it goes through mid-December. Then we go through those letters and investigate them.”
Birgy said she and her team of volunteers often speak with the schools to determine which families are truly in need and which families have had their holiday needs met through other agencies for the holidays.
“If they’re qualified and approved, they get a gift,” Birgy said. “It’s not really income-based as much as need. Some of them run on hardships. Poverty is real and there are a lot of kids in our community who already have a lot going against them. They get back to school, and all the kids are standing there and bragging about what they got, and you’re going to stand there and say, ‘Santa missed my house? So now Santa is excluding me too?’”
Once the families in need are determined, residents of Owensboro and Daviess County can come into the Christmas Wish location, read the letters and “adopt” one, or multiple, families.
“A lot of these letters move people because it’s sad to read these letters,” Birgy said. “Once these families are adopted, [residents] go out and shop for what these families are asking for. They can either bring the gifts by here or take them to the family themselves.”
Birgy said WBKR and other volunteers shop all year for local families, so they can start making a difference as soon as those doors open.
“We’ve got some stuff ready because we had 1,200 families last year and over 4,000 children,” she said. “This year, we’re not sure, but I can tell you that when I read the numbers on Dec. 3, we had more families than we had all last season.”
Residents can bring in toy donations and monetary donations even without adopting a specific family or families, Birgy said.
“We give each child three gifts — a small one, a medium one and a big one,” she said. “A $50 value is what we say. Last year, we had about 12,000 gifts.”
The whole charity runs on $600 a year, so every donated dollar must be stretched to its utmost ability, Birgy said.
Local businesses have donated to the cause as well. The copier WBKR uses was loaned to them and local businesses feed the volunteers every day. Chairs and tables have also been donated to the cause. U.S. Bank sends 10-15 volunteers every day, Birgy added.
Birgy implemented a new aspect of Christmas Wish that includes a holiday dinner for families who request it. Christmas Wish donated more than 900 Christmas baskets last year.
“So many other people will say, ‘It’s just toys, it’s just Christmas — I’m going to donate somewhere else,’” Birgy said. “Three years ago I said, ‘We’re going to give them a Christmas basket.’ What we think is a luxury of a ham — they don’t even know what that’s like. The memory around a Christmas table and just knowing you’ve got that feast — are we combating poverty? No, but are we giving someone a memory? Yes.”
Families who request coats are given those as well.
Those hoping to donate or adopt families can visit Towne Square Mall to read letters or bring monetary donations. The Christmas Wish program is held on the left side of the main entrance.
Christmas Wish office hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday.