"The kindness and generosity of our community never ceases to amaze me," said Child Advocacy Center director Sharon De Boer. "With all of the hustle bustle and everyone’s long to do lists this holiday season, good people in our community make time to bless others with the true spirit of Christmas. This is the 19th year of the Secret Santa program. Two hundred and 35 needy children and their families were blessed with the magic of Christmas."
For most Rutherford County children, the holidays are filled with joy and anticipation – writing their letter to Santa, peeking through packages under the tree, and shaking boxes to guess what’s inside. Sadly, are there families like those served by the Child Advocacy Center, whose season of joy is often overshadowed by the emotional and financial toll of child abuse.
"The financial impact of child abuse is often overlooked," said Jennifer Gamble, Child Advocacy Center Family Services Coordinator. "This is where we come in. Through our Secret Santa program, we invite individuals, families, churches, businesses, and civic groups to make the holidays brighter for needy families."
Last Thursday, 62 Secret Santas provided gifts, clothing, and food for families in need. Holiday sponsors ranging from the National Guard to the Murfreesboro Bowling Chapter of the United States Bowling Congress, thoughtfully chose items that will create lasting happy memories for children.
"Part of being in the National Guard is about selfless service," said SFC Karen Potts, of the Tennessee Recruiting and Retention Battalion for the National Guard. "Sponsoring a family each year continues to be our way of giving back to the community,"
Wanda Barrett from the Murfreesboro Bowling Chapter said, "The Seniors all said it made them feel like a kid again" to buy Christmas presents for needy children.
"Many parents and grandparents struggle to put food on the table, to keep their home warm in the winter. They don’t have Christmas trees towering over stacks of presents. Many don’t even have a tree," said Child Advocacy Center accountant Jessica Wauchek. "The Secret Santa program is their one and only chance to give their children a truly authentic Christmas holiday."
Last Friday was the pick-up day for the Secret Santa families. Astonished and taken aback by the generosity of the sponsors, there were hugs and tears of joy as the Child Advocacy Center staff and volunteers loaded car after car with stacks of giftwrapped packages.
From a homeless family of six, living in a roadside hotel to the single mom who was originally too proud to accept the gifts, but later called crying because a financial emergency hit unexpectedly, families from every walk of life and served by the Child Advocacy Center arrived to pick up their gifts.
The Child Advocacy Center serves victims of child abuse, child sexual abuse, and drug endangered children and their non-offending parents, grandparents, and family members. In the last 19 years, the Child Protective Investigative Team, consisting of the Child Advocacy Center, Department of Children’s Services, law enforcement, and the District Attorney’s Office have worked together assist over 20,0000 individuals and trained over 10,000 adults how to protect children from child sexual abuse.
Child abuse does not stop because it is Christmas. The Child Advocacy Center serves new families every day. Some of them are needy families that still need help for Christmas. The Center is accepting Wal-Mart and Kroger gift cards to give to last-minute needy families this holiday season. Secret Santas can drop gift cards off at the Center located at 1040 Samsonite Blvd. Arrangements can be made to drop them off before or after normal business hours by calling 615-867-9000.
"The Child Advocacy Center is truly grateful for all of our Secret Santas," concluded De Boer. "They have enriched Christmas for needy families and made a difference in the lives of child abuse victims. We hope that they were blessed by the experience this Christmas season."