January 19, 2011 Edition

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Thanks to support,Christmas
made special at TCS

Judy Turnbull
Guest Writer

(Editor's note: Judy Turnbull is founder and president of The Children's Shelter in Walnut Ridge, which provides temporary shelter to children displaced through no fault of their own.)

My favorite Christmas songs are "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Why Can't Every Day Be Like Christmas?" sung by Elvis Presley. I didn't know until this past Christmas why these songs had such meaning.

The Children's Shelter (TCS) was full of children from ages 5 to 12 years old and one teen mother with an infant. The staff kept the children busy writing letters to Santa, telling holiday stories, making gingerbread houses and helping them make decorations for the tree.

Most of them were trying very hard to be on Santa's "good list." Some were worried that Santa wouldn't find them since moving to TCS. I visited TCS several times a week and was thrilled to find the children excited with anticipation of Christmas Day!

Adding to the excitement were continuous visitors coming nearly every day to bring donations of gifts, food and money! Staff members had extra duties of going through donations, wrapping gifts and extra baking while maintaining supervision of the children and keeping TCS clean and orderly. They did all the work with big smiles, happy attitudes and extra hugs for the children.

DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) sought for approval from the court to grant family visits and weekend leaves for children to be home with their families. Some children did go home for a visit, but for others, they could only dream of being home for Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, there were eight children trying to sleep in anticipation of Christmas morning. Much to their surprise, when they were rustled out of their beds and sleepily walked into the dining room, there was Santa and Mrs. Claus!

Steve and Cindy Parke recently settled in Imboden from California, where they were professionally Santa and Mrs. Claus. The Parkes offered their services for the children early Christmas morning.

There were many gifts under the tree, plus Santa pulled some gifts from his bag and called each child's name to collect their presents. Santa and Mrs. Claus made each child feel special. Every child received eight gifts and dined on a traditional dinner of donated food that was prepared by the staff. Staff member Melody McDougle said seeing the faces of the children was priceless.

Children who left TCS after Thanksgiving also received donated gifts. There were many gifts left that were given to DCFS in other counties. Please be assured that we distributed the gifts to DCFS for displaced children. No gifts were exchanged for other gifts or money. Sometimes one incident of mishandling donations (true or untrue) can deter someone from giving. We receive donations in good faith and disperse them in good faith. If there is any doubt about a donation, please call us.

Through the grace of God and the kindness of so many people, who brought or sent gifts, food, money and provided services, the children had a good Christmas. The children, staff and board members send our sincere thanks and gratitude!

For these children, who are displaced through no fault of their own, food, shelter, medical care, education and safety is an everyday concern. My wish is that every day could be like Christmas!

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