Wenatchee Church Helps Brighten Vacations at Area Schools

Grace City Church is hosting its annual Children’s Giveaway for 2022 to help approximately 900 area children during the holidays. The program is a partnership with local school family advocates like Veronica Mendoza, who serves families at Mission View Elementary in Wenatchee.

Pastor Adam James of Grace City Church says advocates for area school districts have identified students who are considered “unsupervised” in their schools and in need.

Similar to a Giving Tree project, members of Grace City Church pick up a tag at one of their services and shop for that student’s wish or need named on the tag. Students are not identified beyond their boy or girl clothing size and school. Mendoza and other family advocates play the role of Santa Claus and help distribute gifts to children and their families.

The Gifts For Kids had humble beginnings in 2017. “We adopted a school, only a few of our small church groups got together. We had just learned that there were unwanted children here even in our valley”.

James described “unsupervised” students as those without a permanent address. “They can be couch surfing or jumping from room to room or into a shelter in a car, literally homeless,” Hames added. The revelation was shocking to learn that this is the school “where our own children went to”. Gift For Kids in 2017 helped 18 children in a school.

The gift for children helped 17 children in the second year at the same school, James said the program has been extended to the whole church. and expanded to all Wenatchee elementary and middle schools in Wenatchee. James said members of Grace City Church served 300 children in eight schools in 2019 and then 2020

In 2021, schools in Eastmont were added and a total of 600 children benefited from donations from Gifts For Kids. James says that this year, in addition to serving children from the Wenatchee and Eastmont school districts, “We’re adding Rock Island, Cashmere, Entiat, Orondo, Waterville, Palisades and Quincy. So we have 27 participating schools, and we’re will reach up to 1,200 students this year”

Veronica Mendoza is entering her 23rd year at Mission View Elementary where she has been a family advocate for 13 years. She saw the need grow “When school starts, now I have my eyes on these families, I like to hear their stories”. Mendoza says many families are grateful but will frequently say “we’re fine, please pass this opportunity on to someone else.”

Mendoza says she is grateful for the partnership “We had a tradition of hosting a Christmas dinner for our families and we invited about 50 families for Christmas dinner, giving each child a small gift.” The dinner tradition ended when COVID hit. Mendoza said “after Grace City Church reached out to us, it wasn’t just a small gift, it was an abundance of blessings and gifts, you know, a way for God to help us through members of the church and the community, the people who would support this kind of vision of giving”.

James says Grace City approached expanding the program one year at a time. “There are surely others who are not yet on the list. We would love to put them on the list and do what we can. And we have a great team helping us.”

Grace City Church also partnered with Hooked On Toys where retailer Wenatchee offered discounts for purchases of items on the Gifts For Kids labels.

James says the delivery of Gift For Kids is very rewarding. “We saw the family defender break down in tears and be so thankful for the impact it had on the school, on the administration, on the team” He said defenders like Mendoza wish they could do more for these kids and having this community support is a common feeling. “It is the favorite day of the year to be able to give these gifts and bring this blessing to these families and these children and so we love to support these children, but also to support family advocates and encourage them.”

Mendoza agrees “It’s a joyful feeling. It fills your heart, it brings happiness and the gratitude of parents and children, you know, these are expressions, some say I don’t know how to thank you enough “

James adds that it is unacceptable here in our city, that there are children who deprive themselves of a gift and an expression of grace and love at Christmas”. He points out that no religious material is distributed. “It’s just a blessing for these children, isn’t it? where they are unconditionally”.

Jerry B. Hatch