The words spoken by a woman working behind the customer service counter told Nadine King she was on the right track.
“Christmas Come True,” the woman said, “You helped me and now I am in a much better place. I want to let you know how grateful I am that you were there for me and my children.”
King started Christmas Come True seven years ago when people were out of work, out of their homes and going hungry.
“I decided that it was just too crazy, everything was falling apart here,” King said. “I decided it was time for me to do something like this. It was something that has been in my heart for many years.”
Her plan was to start an organization that would put presents under the tree and food on the table that the family would enjoy.
“It’s an individualized Christmas experience for each family” King said. “We talk to the parents so we know exactly what food their children eat. I know they are going to eat turkey and stuffing, but maybe they don’t like cranberry relish so I am not going to give it to them. We will give them something else.”
There’s even cookie dough for Christmas Eve cookies. The same is true for the gifts. King customizes every gift to every child.
“Each of the kids is bought for, so if Suzy is a size 5 and likes bright pink and stripes, then that’s what I am shopping for,” she said.
Stockings are filled with toiletry items and a few candies.
King served 54 families the first year, December 2009, and the numbers are not decreasing.
“We’ve done 484 families with 1,373 children since 2009,” she said. “I go to student services and we get families from every city. We had 295 children last year.”
King calls the parents to find out what the family needs.
“It’s not ‘hi, we’re going to give you something.’ It’s ‘how can we help you? What are your needs?’”
She will also have giving trees placed around town in grocery stores and other businesses.
King said she has been told that the recipients should be happy for what they get, but she believes everyone should be treated with dignity.
“You aren’t going to wear something of mine if you don’t like it,” she said. “When they go back to school after break they are happy and proud. Maybe mom and dad didn’t do this, but somebody did this for me.”
Everything is delivered the last day of school before the children are released. Food is distributed from the Palm Harbor Publix and taken to each family’s car. All of the gifts are wrapped and labeled.
“Last year we raised enough money to purchase 127 bicycles and we were able to give out 150 bikes,” King said. “Having a bike can open up a whole new world to a teenager. They can go to the library or maybe to work.”
This year she is implementing “Let’s Make a Change with Change,” a Christmas jar campaign that started last year with one woman wanting to continue a tradition.
“She told me she and her friends would put all of their change in a jar all year long and find a family that needed it.”
Businesses and individuals interested in having a change jar can contact the office.
King also has a wish list: The donation of a 5,000 to 6,000 square foot space from Thanksgiving to the week before Christmas, and 60 folding tables for a staging and distribution area for the presents.
For more information, call 302-1290, 569-4429, or visit their website ChristmasComeTrue.org.