UCCU Christmas Wishes

If you want your family to learn to be generous and charitable this holiday season, there is a Christmas tree which could help do that. It’s part of the Christmas Wishes program which is run by Utah Central Credit Union.

Sara Parker, from Utah Central Credit Union explains the program and how people can get involved.

While you’re out buying gifts for family and friends this holiday season, we hope that you’ll consider making room for one more. Needy children aged 5 to 11 at one of Salt Lake City’s most impoverished schools won’t have a Christmas without your help

The program is called Christmas Wishes and there’s not another holiday gift giving opportunity like it in the state. In fact, I would be surprised to find another program like it in the country.

It’s so unique because every child at Lincoln Elementary School in downtown Salt Lake City receives the two Christmas gifts that they ask for. We hear about so many wonderful efforts around the valley that provide kids with stuffed toys, shoes or other specific items. But the Lincoln Elementary students actually write down on hand-made ornaments a gift that they need and a gift that they want – and every child’s wishes are granted.

The school has 575 students so that’s a lot of presents and when you consider that poverty among children in Utah has increased 45% in the last five years and Utah has the 11th highest poverty rate in the nation – there are still a lot of children who are going without.

Utahns are known for their generosity and for the way they help out their neighbors so we hope many of your KSL viewers will help bring joy this Christmas season to these underprivileged children.

Just walk into any branch of Utah Central Credit Union in Salt Lake, Sandy, West Jordan, Murray, West Valley or Herriman or the South Jordan branch of HeritageWest Credit Union, take an ornament from the Christmas tree, buy the two gifts listed on the ornament, and bring them back to the branch by December 12th. We’ll wrap the gifts and give them to the child on December 20. Or, those interested in supporting this effort can actually stop by any HeritageWest, SouthWest Community or Utah Central branch and make a donation. Then, we’ll do all the shopping for you!

Nearly all the students at Lincoln Elementary live below the poverty line. They have a large refugee population from Africa and Southeast Asia and these kids don’t have clothing for Utah’s winter. And there is also a growing homeless population at the school – where neither parent works – and those children often don’t have the necessities of life. We really can’t imagine the circumstances or challenges facing these children and families. It’s one of the most impacted Title One schools in the Salt Lake School district.

Additionally, nineteen different languages are spoken at the school so it’s a huge melting pot.

One year a child asked for a bed and when it was delivered at the house the workers were stunned to find out that it was the only piece of furniture in the home.

A student was asked to write about her memories of Christmas Wishes when she was in the first grade and this is what she said:

“I was so happy when I got a pair of socks and a blanket. I started to cry because I didn’t have to share my blanket with my mom anymore. I was great that I got some socks to keep my feet warm.”

The principal at the school was assigned to Lincoln Elementary just a couple of years ago and said in all of her years as an administrator she’s never seen a finer program than Christmas Wishes. The family advocate coordinator said the kids can’t wait for December 20 to arrive when they get their gifts.

The gifts or donations need to be returned to the branch offices by December 12th so they can wrap them in time and also make sure that all the gifts are purchased for the ornaments not selected.

It’s a huge project and involves a lot of hours from the branch employees and staff – but the rewards are great – because of the joy and smiles it brings to the children.

The classrooms come into the auditorium by grade to receive their gifts and once they are distributed the room fills with laughter, joy, noise and a lot of happy kids. It’s an experience that I will never forget.

If you’d like to know how you can participate in Christmas Wishes please www.utahcentral.com where you’ll find the location of all the branch offices participating in this inspirational event.

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