Homeless Children's Trust Lends Helping Hand for Families During the Holidays

By Christy Aumer, Reporter

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By Liz Blood

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Up to 150 kids arrived at Eagle’s Lodge in Iowa City to attend a holiday party while their parents shopped for gifts Saturday morning.

Parents were given a $50 Kmart gift card provided by the Homeless Children’s Trust, a part of the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, for each child to spend on gifts this season. As parents shopped, the children were entertained by volunteers with arts and crafts, music by Kevin Burt and Robert Sulzer, gingerbread house decorating, Christmas carols and more. The families were also provided lunch, as well as given donated books and food such as dinner rolls and pizza.

The families were selected by counselors from the Shelter House, HACAP, Domestic Violence Intervention Program and MECCA.

“The children have been homeless in the last three months, or have been doubling up with another family,” Johnson County Homeless Children’s Trust coordinator Mary Larew said. “These people are really in need.” Larew has been with the program for over 20 years, and has integrated her family into the programs efforts. My two twin grandsons, Connor and Max, are 18 years old now, but when they were 3 years old they used to dress up as elves, Larew said with a smile.

Tamara Grant brought her three boys to the Eagle’s Lodge with a little bit of apprehension leaving her children with people she wasn't familiar with. “But we’re really happy we did it, this has been a great opportunity,” Grant said. Grant will be searching for a couple of specific toys for her three boys during her mission at Kmart.

“Bernard has been driving me crazy about getting him a Spiderman toy that shoots webs,” Grant said with a laugh about her 5-year-old.

Bryan Forbes, 18, of Lone Tree has been volunteering for this event for about three years. “It’s really fun to help out the kids, they have a lot of energy though,” Forbes said. “But as a high school student, this is great to get out and help the community.” Graduating in the spring, Forbes was unsure if he would be able to help out next year depending on where he goes to college. “If I’m in the area, I’ll definitely help out,” Forbes said.

26-year-old Mamie Teah brought her 4-year-old son Jaden and 1-year-old daughter Jorden to the event. "We are very excited," Teah said. “This is a great program, especially for people trying to establish themselves here, and get themselves together."

Teah will be searching for Barbies and a digital LeapFrog for her two children during her trip to Kmart.

Larew looks forward to the event every year; whether it’s the smiling children or the Hokey Pokey she said she will keep on doing it while she’s can. She said she wishes she could help everyone, but makes due with what she has.

A lot of people don’t have any money to do any more shopping, Larew said. This is their Christmas shopping.

A similar event will be held in Cedar Rapids at AEGON on Saturday, December 8. For more information, contact HACAP at (319) 393-7811 or the Homeless Children’s Trust at (800) 391-1562.

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