Mari Garcia recently received a “Letter to Santa” from her 11-year-old daughter, detailing what she would like for Christmas.
“She put it on the Christmas tree, and she said she was waiting on her presents,” Garcia said. “I thought oh God, I just started working and I won’t get paid until after Christmas since I had only been working two days.”
Garcia, who had been out of work the past few months with bronchitis and pneumonia, said she told her daughter “maybe Santa Claus won’t make it until January.”
“I told her remember how when God was born, those three kings came and brought presents?” Garcia said. “She (her daughter) said ‘well if they can’t come, my birthday is in September, I can wait until then.”
On Tuesday, Garcia was able to provide her 11-year-old daughter with a Christmas through Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas’ Adopt-a-Family for Christmas.
“I didn’t apply before the deadline, but a friend of mine told me to come today (Tuesday),” she said. “My daughter heard her telling me this and said ‘remember mom, on the 18th, you have to go to Catholic Charities because Santa Claus will be there.”
In addition to toys, food and clothes, Garcia received gift cards to local stores.
Berta Lopez, office manager for Catholic Charities, said this year the organization approved 120 families for Christmas assistance. About 96 of those families were adopted while Catholic Charities provided a Christmas for the remaining 24 families.
On Dec. 10, the adopted families received their gifts while the remaining 24 families received their assistance Monday.
Lopez, who has also worked for Ashby House in the past with their Christmas distribution, said this year was different from years past.
“A lot of people asked for food this year,” she said. “We normally get asked for toys, clothes and other things, but this year was big for food and hygiene.”
On Tuesday, Catholic Charities opened its doors to families who did not meet the November 2nd Adopt-a-Family application deadline or individuals who did not qualify for assistance through them or the Salvation Army.
The organization’s offices in Hays and Manhattan also hosted similar distribution days.
Darlene Tracy, of Solomon, has volunteered with Catholic Charities’ Christmas operations for the past three to four years. This year, she helped set up distribution items prior to the Dec. 10 pickup date.
“I enjoy giving back, and this is something I can do,” she said. “I can’t always give financially, but I can give my time. I also really believe in what Catholic Charities does. It’s a wonderful organization.”
Marsha Kinder, of Salina, has volunteered at Catholic Charities for five years, and uses the Christmas experiences to prepare for the holidays.
“It just puts you in the holiday spirit,” she said. “It gets hectic in here sometimes, but we all just enjoy doing it and helping others.”
More than Christmas
In addition to worrying about what she’d be able to provide for her 11-year-old daughter, Garcia has tended to her 17-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer just before her 16th birthday.
Garcia said Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and Catholic Charities “were the only people who helped me when my daughter was diagnosed with cancer.”
Catholic Charities, Garcia said, helped provide her with gas to and from Wichita for hospital visits and with $500 for medical expenses through the Kelly Mead Fund.
Garcia’s daughter is now cancer-free and goes to checkups every three to six months or as recommended.
Garcia, who had to put school on hold due to her daughter’s condition, plans to go back to Kansas State University Polytechnic to finish her bachelor’s degree in social work.
“Catholic Charities is a really great program,” Garcia said. “Berta checks in on me all the time. She is always telling me not to give up on school and to keep working hard.”
Family in need
Danielle Haskett, of Concordia, stopped by the Catholic Charities office Tuesday to receive Christmas assistance for her six kids, ranging from age 14 to eight months.
Haskett said she and her husband, Lancyio Haskett, are unable to work. He has diabetics and receives four shots a day.
During the past year and a half, Haskett said her family has received assistance from Catholic Charities Pregnancy Services Program in the form of diapers, baby clothes, help with medical assistance and more.
“This really means a lot, being able to get something for my children for Christmas,” she said. “This sounds crazy, but I don’t even have a dollar to my name. I am grateful and appreciative.”