Local News

Durham church backs out of Christmas sponsorship

Posted December 21, 2010 11:37 p.m. EST
Updated December 22, 2010 10:07 a.m. EST

— 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.

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.