The last few sets of parents strolled through GRACE Christmas Cottage Monday afternoon listening to favorite Christmas songs and shopping for their children. Toys, bicycles, clothing, games, gift cards, books, wrapping paper and bows, a package of home-baked cookies, stocking stuffers, and a special gift for the family all went to their homes bringing a Merry Christmas to the entire family.
As anticipated, Christmas Cottage hosted a record number of client-families, but breaking this record brought along a bitter-sweet taste.
“We are so thrilled we were able to serve so many families this year,” said Lori Stevens, Christmas Cottage manager. “But the increase [in families] only shows how much need there is in the community.”
In all, Christmas Cottage saw 821 client-families this season (an all-time record number of families served). By comparison, last year’s total was 661 families. Naturally, the number of individuals also increased as we served over 3,000 individuals from last year’s total of 2,403.
Lori credited her volunteers—the Christmas Cottage Elves—for shouldering the huge increase, and praised all of the organizations and individuals who donated toys and other items to Christmas Cottage.
“As always, when we finally shut and locked the doors Monday night, we looked like Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard,” said Lori with a beaming smile. “But we had just enough so everyone could have a good Christmas.”
There was no obvious reason for the increase, but GRACE Client Services staff will try to determine any overarching causes that could have led to such a jump.
“Seeing an increase of nearly 24% [over last year] was a bit of a surprise,” said Lori. “Going forward, we need to find answers if, for no other reason, than to make sure we have enough inventory for next Christmas.”
The answers will surely be in the increases GRACE is seeing across the board in Client Services. As the population in north Tarrant County continues to grow, so increases those who are in the service industry that follow the large corporations, hotels, retail centers, airport concessions, restaurants, etc.
Marked increases in service provision are also being experienced in the GRACE Food Pantry, Emergency Assistance, shelter and utility assistance, and other critical needs.
“It could be as simple as this increase is the ‘new normal’ we will be serving in the future,” said Lori.
GRACE wishes to extend a hearty thanks to all who made this Christmas season special for those in need. All Christmas Cottage volunteers, donors, and supporters made the holidays brighter for thousands in our community. On behalf of all GRACE clients, thank you.