SALT LAKE CITY /OGDEN – The leaves falling from the trees, the temperature dropping, snow in the mountains are all signs that the holiday season is almost here. But this season is not joyful for all. Those most in need might be struggling, thinking how to put food on their tables or how to provide a coat for their kids.
Catholic Community Services in Utah every year is a beacon of hope in this season. Through their different holiday programs, they offer a hand to the most in need.
“All year round, CCS’ mission is to practice the gospel values of love, compassion and hope through service, support and collaboration. The holiday season is a fun time for us to offer a little extra support to those who need it,” said Kearstin Cantrell, CCS’ marketing manager.
Among its regular services for the homeless and refugees, CCS offers holiday programs such as the Gift of the Drummer, a turkey drive and, in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus, the Coats for Kids drive.
The Gift of the Drummer program has operated for the past 21 years. Through it, with donations from the community, CCS has been providing clothing and holiday gifts for around 1,200 homeless and refugee families in Salt Lake City. The Gift of the Drummer program provides Christmas for children ages newborn to 18.
In October, CCS started connecting with donors and matching them with a specific child.
“We then give them a list of items the child is in need of—clothes, shoes, etc. and have them drop off those donations through the month of November,” Cantrell said.
During the first week of December, CCS staff and volunteers wrap the gifts and “they’re then distributed to each client just in time for the holidays,” Cantrell said.
The turkey drive program runs through Nov. 23 to support the community in the Ogden area. For the drive, “CCS accepts donations of turkeys, hams and other non-perishable holiday food items to distribute to Joyce Hansen Hall food bank clients during the holiday season,” Cantrell said.
All the donations are accepted at the CCS offices in Ogden, as well as at the United Way of Northern Utah office.
“We’re anticipating distributing to around 800 families this year during holiday distribution,” said Cantrell.
CCS works with the Knights of Columbus in both the Salt Lake and Ogden areas to collect and distribute coats at CCS locations. Donations are accepted at local Catholic churches.
“It’s anticipated that the Knights of Columbus will be donating all the coats for this year’s drive,” Cantrell said. “We’ll then distribute those to students in need in Ogden, Weber and Box Elder school districts at the end of November.”
At this year’s first Coats for Kids distribution at the St. Vincent de Paul Center in Salt Lake City, “we gifted 300 brand new winter coats,” stated a Knights of Columbus press release.
In addition to their work with CCS, the Knights organize other distributions at churches throughout the state.
The Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids is sponsored by Knights of Columbus councils throughout the United States.
“The goal of the Coats for Kids program is to ensure that no child in North America goes without a coat during the winter season. Through the dedication of councils across the United States and Canada, hundreds of thousands of new winter coats have been distributed to children since program inception,” the Knights’ web page reads.
“In light of recent world events, the past few months have kept us very busy. It’s been very encouraging to see the way our community has come together to support CCS,” said Cantrell of the support the agency has received despite the pandemic, the ups and down of the economy and all the challenges that the world faces today.
CCS is always grateful for the way the community rallies together to help them in the work of providing help and creating hope among communities, Cantrell said.
“I think it’s safe for me to say on behalf of all CCS staff, that having the opportunity to work for an organization that’s working to provide support and services to the vulnerable in our community is incredibly fulfilling,” she said. “Each department at Catholic Community Services is so unique. It’s so fun to have a front-row seat to the life-changing work each department does day in and day out.”