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Durham church backs out of Christmas sponsorship

Posted December 21, 2010
Updated December 22, 2010

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— Durham County Social Services is scrambling to provide gifts for hundreds of families after a local church failed to follow through on Christmas sponsorship.

A local church committed to providing toys and gifts for 300 Durham families, but just four days before Christmas, backed out of the deal.

"I think they over-extended themselves," said Carol Hunt of Durham County Social Services. "When the families got to the school on Saturday, they did not have adequate gifts and toys for them."

Vernita Howze has been unemployed for a year, but she reached out and asked for help to bring Christmas to her three children this year.

"Right now, I'm going through some very hard times, and I wasn't able to get anything," Howze said. "So I was looking for just anything for them to go up under the tree."

She contacted the county and was offered help through the Share Your Christmas program, which relies on community sponsors to provide toys and gifts for struggling families.

Durham county scrambles to provide toys, gifts for 300 families Durham county scrambles to provide toys, gifts for 300 families

This year, demand for the Share Your Christmas program outpaced donations.

"We were about to send them letters saying we're not going to be able to help them, and this church approached us, saying that they had all these resources and a grant, and said they wanted to help families," Hunt said. "(They) asked us to give them some families, and we did ... some 300 of them."

But Howze got a voicemail message Tuesday that caused her to lose all hope.

"I do apologize, and I am truly sorry if you did not receive what you had hoped to get from the church," the message stated.

"It was such a big letdown ... that I lost, I just totally lost hope," Howze said.

Now the county is scraping together resources to make good on the church's promise.

"We've gotten some help from another resource, and the agency is going to try to do its best to make good on the help that the people need," Hunt said.

They are hoping to collect enough toys, gifts and gift cards to have something for all 300 families on the church's list. Visit the Durham County Social Services Facebook page to see how you can help.


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  • earthsister Dec 22, 2010

    First off, it's been beautiful to see the outpouring of support from the community for this effort. It warms my heart.

    Second, for those who want to judge the families in need here - would you please consider for a second that asking for help, particularly with Christmas, is often a humiliating and embarrassing experience? Most everyone wants to be able to provide for their family on their own, most everyone wants to be able to give their children the gifts they ask for. I can assure you that it is not an easy decision for parents to ask for this type of help - and that they are grateful for the kindness that others show them. You never know where you'll be down the road - if you'll need the help, or if you'll be paying it forward.

  • angimomma Dec 22, 2010

    I pray that some of you scrooges never have to face the moment you will have to swallow your pride for your childrens sakes. In this economy, the face of poverty has changed, grown. You may find you see an old co-worker, someone you esteemed in the grocery store using food stamps, or worse yet, it could be you...even though you've done all the right things, gone to college, married well (or so you thought), etc etc. Until you've walked a mile in those shoes, you will never understand.

  • cburkhard Dec 22, 2010

    To those of you talking about the true meaning of Christmas, and how we should be teaching our kids that we shouldn't expect 'stuff'- one of the things I learned in my church was that Christmas was when we received the greatest gift of all-God's only son. However, a 3 year old doesn't get that- they do however understand the joy and wonder of getting an unexpected gift. That's why I firmly believe all children who celebrate Christmas should get gifts on Christmas day- if they don't understand the joy and wonder of an actual physical gift, how can they eventually understand the joy and wonder of the gift God gave us in that manger?

  • Sandywandy Dec 22, 2010

    Yes, the true meaning needs to taught. I am currently in nursing school, working 40 hours a week, my husband works 55-60 hours at week,and have a 17 month child and pay for EVERYTHING ourselves. We scraped by and got her 5 toys, but the important part is that we are together and healthy. We are not begging for more, we are thankful for what we can do.

  • TomLynda Dec 22, 2010

    As with Shellygirl, my children also knew from day one that Santa wasn't real. I was not going to tell my children a lie, and then cover it up with more lies. So, they knew about the Santa tradition, but more importantly they knew that the day that has been set aside for Christmas, December 25th (which is not the date) was for a celebration and remembrance of the birth of Jesus, God Incarnate.

    We would give them gifts and explain to them that this was to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Adults would ask them what Santa was going to bring them and they flat told them the truth.

    Now, in their adult years they will often call me when they want to know the truth about something, for they know I will not tell them a lie. Even if it hurts.

    This Santa business today is encouraged by the businesses to create more amd more sales. The almighty dollar has to be made on the day we celebrate the birth of the Savior.

    Keep it up Kellygirl!

  • 2alegal Dec 22, 2010

    Have any of you thought that maybe this was a news blimp so that help would come and that maybe the ficticious church was nonexistent all along???? A good way to get the much needed help is to make the news. I would rather have honesty in lieu of news...............My help went to them as well.

  • GWALLY Dec 22, 2010

    ...If "they" couldn't meet their obligations regarding this, they should..."

    If "THEY"...did you say "THEY"???....couldn't meet their obligations...THEY you say????....What about the obligations of the parents....Did they NOT KNOW Christmas was Dec.25th..??????? It has become soooooooooooooo easy to blame others and look to charity and government entitlements to rectify your own bad life choices and decisions!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • RB-1 Dec 22, 2010

    2thec - "There are lots of federal dollars that churches are illegible to apply for."

    To my knowledge, that's only when a church is providing K-12 education to children, taking the financial burden for educating those children off the government.

    If it's for anything else, except maybe helping with the burden of a government agency, it shouldn't happen because of the separation of church and state.

    That's not to say it isn't happening though, because of the wishy washy way our government often adjudicates its own laws.

  • RB-1 Dec 22, 2010

    That's horrible for a church to do. If they couldn't meet their obligations regarding this, they should have called on other churches to help them instead of backing out.

    Methinks they left things to the last minute waiting for some imagined miracle, when the miracle of asking for help was before them all along.

  • LovemyPirates Dec 22, 2010

    sillywabbitthepatriot - Have you not heard of "faith based initiatives?" There are lots of federal dollars that churches are illegible to apply for.