Christmas trees are decorated, wreaths are hung, and lights are twinkling. It’s the holiday season, and for Sampson County, it’s time to shag for Santa once again.
This year’s Shaggin’ for Santa event, coordinated for around 10 years by Robert Stroud, will return to the Oasis restaurant on Sunday, Dec. 16, from 3 to 7 p.m.
“I was a little skeptical about doing it again this year because I couldn’t have it on a Friday or Saturday night,” says Stroud who wanted to make sure the event could be held when the most people could attend. “But I had a man call in to the radio station [Stroud hosts “Boogie Shoes Radio” on Saturdays] to say that he had sent a check in for Shaggin’ for Santa. I decided that I needed to do it again. The need and interest is there,” he attests.
As usual, the admission fee is one new, unwrapped present or a $10 donation. All of the proceeds go to help the Department of Aging’s “Grandparent’s Raising Grandchildren” program.
There are 45 children in the program this year, a significant increase from last year when there was only 21. The children are placed with their grandparents for various reasons, including parental sickness, abuse, or addiction.
“The program helps ensure that the children wake up on Chirstmas morning with something for Christmas,” says Vanessa Polk with the Department of Aging. “They’re just like everybody else’s children but they just don’t have as much. This is a time when we get to show them the true spirit of Christmas.”
The Department of Aging receives wish lists from the children in the program and Polk shares that most “tug at your heart.”
“I saw a list the other day where one little girl wants a tea set. There’s also a 16 year old who wants a comforter and a 12 year old who wants a new Bible. One boy plays the piano in church and would like a keyboard so that he can practice more,” says Polk. “It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday rush, but it’s these kinds of things that make you slow down and think.”
This year, Stroud and the Department of Aging have also set up an angel tree at the local Big Blue store as a way to offer community members another giving option. “There are 39 tags on the tree. The tags are shaped like the profile of a child’s face and include information like the child’s age, sizes, and something they want for Christmas,” explains Stroud.
The wishes that Stroud sees represented on the tree are very moving. “Some of the things on the angel tree are heartbreaking. I saw where one kid wants a suit to wear to church. Others want a robe or some shoes. It’s not all about the toys,” says Stroud.
The Department of Aging is very thankful for Stroud and his kindness toward those in need. “Mr. Stroud is so passionate about children and has such a giving heart,” says Polk. “Last year, when he saw that a child wanted sheets for her bed, the tears just rolled.”
While the children are the focus of the event, it’s important to remember that when a child is helped so is a grandparent.
“The program helps a population that should be enjoying retirement but they’re raising kids again. Many are on a fixed income and need assistance; kids are expensive,” says Lorrie Sutton, director of the Department of Aging.
“These grandparents are struggling just like everyone else and they simply need help,” adds Polk. “At the distribution, it is so moving because the grandparents are so grateful. They don’t come feeling entitled. By the end of the day, we’re all tearing up.”
Polk praises the community for their continued support of the Shaggin’ for Santa event and the “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren” program. “We have a strong community of givers, and we are good stewards of what is given,” says Polk.
“We want to do anything we can to help and the Shaggin’ for Santa event really allows us to do that,” adds Sutton. “I really don’t know what we would do without Mr. Stroud and his help.”
The angel tree items can be brought to the Shaggin’ for Santa event or can be dropped off at the Department of Aging.
Contact the Dept. of Aging at 910-592-4653 for more information about their “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren” program.
The Oasis restaurant is located at 1370 Hobbton Highway, Clinton.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 123 or via email at email@example.com.