ST. GEORGE — A nonprofit organization taking on the challenge of providing Christmas for disadvantaged children around Washington County is accepting applications for families in need of holiday help.
KONY’s Coins for Kids began almost 30 years ago, after the founders identified a growing need in Southern Utah as they came across more and more families who struggle financially.
“For a lot of families that are barely getting by, the majority of their money goes to mortgage, rent, food,” Coins for Kids board member Carl Lamar told St. George News. “There are some kids out there that don’t have warm winter jackets, that don’t have a pillow to sleep on. It’s hard to believe that in this area there are kids going through that.”
Some families might not celebrate Christmas because they can’t afford a Christmas tree or gifts, and Lamar said Coins for Kids board members didn’t like that idea.
Through funds, gifts and clothes that have been donated to the nonprofit organization by members of the community and local businesses, Coins for Kids is able to spend about $110 per child for over 400 families. In 2018, Coins for Kids delivered presents to 1,688 children in 408 families across Washington County.
“Without the community, we couldn’t do this, period,” Lamar said. “The community has really help us out and supported us over the years to an incredible degree. I don’t think anybody can do a program similar to this anywhere else in the country.”
Tuesday afternoon, representatives from the Larry H. Miller Charities group and the Larry H. Miller Megaplex Theaters presented Lamar with a $15,000 donation.
Larry H. Miller Charities has been a major donor of the non-profit organization for 4 years.
All donated funds are used to purchase, wrap and deliver gifts to children in need. None of the money that is raised throughout Southern Utah are used for administrative costs, and every Coins for Kids board member and coordinator is a volunteer.
“My favorite part is being able to see some of the kids,” Lamar said. “It’s always fun to see the kids’ faces when you walk in the door. That’s enough pay.”
The last day to apply to qualify for Coins for Kids or any of the organization’s community partners is Nov. 22. Applicants must apply in person at the Washington County School District building on 121 W. Tabernacle St. in St. George. Officials will accept applications until 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and until 5 p.m. Friday.
Applicants are required to provide a photo ID and proof of residency in Washington County, a birth certificate for each child or court documents recognizing someone outside of the child’s parents have custody, and a letter from a referring organization.
Coins for Kids officials will vet each application to see if the proper documentation was provided and to ensure the family hasn’t received gifts for three years or more over the last nine years.
Following the application process, qualified families will be contacted so Coins for Kids can obtain toy requests and clothes sizes from the parents or guardians. This information is put into a system where Coins for Kids, Shop with a Cop or an “adoptive” family will be assigned to each family; organizations won’t be assigned until after the application center has accepted its final application.
Before the gifts can be delivered, they have to be purchased, sorted and wrapped. Members of the community hoping to help the organization bring a touch of Christmas into the homes of families in need can donate their time or money through any number of events happening in the days leading up to the end of the year.
On Dec. 17 at 5 p.m., Coins for Kids and residents will meet at the Walmart in Washington City to shop for families that qualify for the program. The following day at the Dixie Convention Center, community members are welcome to help Coins for Kids wrap the gifts that have been purchased the previous night beginning at 8 a.m.
Coins for Kids is also looking for Santas to deliver the gifts to the homes of children in the area. Potential Santas will need to register with the Coins for Kids Santa Coordinator, who can be reached at 435-632-0439. Chosen Santas are required to pay a small suit deposit that is refunded after the suit is returned.
“Whether it’s dropping a nickel into a red box or volunteering an hour in wrapping or donating money or being a Santa, there’s so many ways to be a part of it, and everybody feels the spirit of Christmas,” Lamar said.
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