Christmas in July kicks off this week
Gallatin resident and library volunteer Daryl Chandler hanging bags to be filled during the Christmas in July donation drive, benefitting the Rainbow Room of Cherokee County. Jacksonville, Alto and Rusk libraries are offering the bags for the drive through the month of July.
Christmas might still be 25 weeks away, but Cherokee County residents are getting the opportunity to get into the giving spirit a little early this year.
The county’s libraries, along with Sonic-Rusk, are teaming up again for the annual Christmas in July donation drive for the Cherokee County Rainbow Room.
According to the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards’ website, tccwb.org, Rainbow Rooms are 24/7 resource centers – which are stocked mostly through community donations – available to Child Protective Service caseworkers to help them meet the critical needs of abused and neglected children.
“Unfortunately, when a child is removed from a bad environment, the officials aren’t in a position to grab much more than the child – no clothes, no toys, not even a toothbrush,” Rusk resident and drive organizer Diki Parker explained. “But the Rainbow Room helps by collecting things like personal hygiene items, clothes, underwear and pajamas, and new blankets, toys, books, school supplies, shoes and backpacks and providing them to those children and the families they’re trying to help.”
The local Rainbow Room is located at the Cherokee County Department of Family and Protective Services office, 1037 SE Loop 456, in Jacksonville and is directed by the Cherokee County Child & Family Welfare Board.
“We are just overwhelmed and so thankful for all the donations and all the participation,” Cherokee County Child & Family Service Board President Nancy Washburn said after last year’s donations of more than 25 Sonic bags were dropped off.
Through fiscal year 2017 (Aug. 31), 180 children had been placed in foster care in Cherokee County, as reported by the DFPS Data Book, found at dfps.state.tx.us.
“The need is always greatest right now,” longtime county board member Shirley Reese said,” because we almost always see an uptick in family crises during the summer months.
“We are especially needing clothes for older children and teenagers, and back-to-school is just around the corner too, so getting a head start on school supplies would be wonderful!
According to data released by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), in 2017, 172 Texas children died due to physical abuse or neglect – the lowest number of physical abuse deaths since 2010.
“Most significantly, the number of child fatalities decreased by 22.5 percent in FY 2017 compared to the previous year,” the DFPS’s Child Fatality and Near Fatality Annual Report states. “Another finding – that in about half of the cases the family had no prior involvement with DFPS – highlights the importance of community in child protection. For children to remain safe, and to thrive, it takes community buy-in and collaboration, so that support networks can be built, and families helped before tragedy strikes.”
The best part is 100 percent of all donations collected in Cherokee County directly benefits the Rainbow Room and the children and families of Cherokee County.
“We couldn’t do nearly as good a job helping local families we are able to without our community’s generous support and volunteer hours,” Reese said.
Participants can visit the Jacksonville Public Library, the Rusk Public Library or the Stella Hill Memorial Library in Alto and collect a Sonic Drive-In to-go bag from one of the Christmas in July stations; consult the list included in the bags and fill the Sonic bag with any items from the list you wish; return the filled bag to the library it came from; grab another bag and repeat.
“As donation-filled bags come in, we’ll collect them and present them to the Rainbow Room at the end of July,” Parker said. “We definitely want to thank our libraries for helping us again this year. And Sonic-Rusk, too, for their support this year.”
The Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards’ mission is to support a statewide network of volunteers concerned with the welfare of children, especially those suffering from abuse and neglect.
Visit www.tccwb.org for more information or to donate to a program.
Call (800) 252-5400 to report abuse, neglect or exploitation of children, the elderly, or people with disabilities, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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