For the Charles County Children’s Aid Society, December marks the culmination of a large effort to make the holiday season brighter for needy children in the community. This week, Friday Focus caught up with the Society’s Janet Brett, who took time out of her busy schedule to share some information about her organization’s work, and how you can support their holiday toy drive, Christmas Connection.
Q: Tell us about your organization. Who do you serve?
A: The Charles County Children’s Aid Society is a 501(c)(3) private nonprofit established in 1931. We provide emergency services to families with children residing in Charles County. On a daily basis, bread and pastries are available in our lobby for families on a first come, first served basis and we occasionally have fresh vegetables, depending on availability. We regularly serve as an emergency food pantry, in addition to providing clothing, baby items, personal care items and assistance with rent and utilities.
We have several annual distributions: late August, when we distribute school supplies to approximately 2,000 school children in Charles County public schools; at Thanksgiving, when we distribute approximately 250 food baskets to families with children in the Waldorf and White Plains areas and during Easter, when we distribute donated Easter baskets. Of course, our biggest annual distribution is Christmas Connection.
We are able to help families because of the generous donations we receive from members of the community. We accept donations of gently used clothing, non-perishable food, gently used household and baby items, new school supplies, new toys, new underwear and socks and monetary donations. We use community volunteers to assist in sorting the donations and keeping our shelves full.
Q: What has been your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?
A: I really have a couple of favorite moments where the Children’s Aid Society has helped families. Our school supply distribution is always special, as the children receive a new backpack filled with school supplies and I know that they are being given an opportunity to start the school year well-supplied, similar to their classmates who come from better economic conditions. However, I think my favorite moment comes during the annual Christmas Connection distribution. As I assist the parents in shopping for Christmas gifts for their children, it is very satisfying to know that I am helping this family have a better Christmas.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: Our biggest challenge is being able to meet the many needs of the families in Charles County. Unfortunately, our resources are limited, and so while we try to help everyone seeking assistance, we are not always able to provide as much as might be needed.
Q: What advice can you give someone looking to work for a non-profit?
A: My advice to anyone looking to work at a non-profit is to come prepared with patience and try not to let the personal issues of the clients affect your emotions. You’ll find yourself working with people who are very stressed with just trying to provide the basic necessities of life, so you have to be willing to provide the patience in those situations. Additionally, you often hear stories that can be heartbreaking. While it helps to be empathetic, you can also be very emotionally touched by some of the stories. In that case, you have to understand that while you provide assistance, you cannot completely fix the situation for that family. You will frequently feel positive satisfaction from assisting families needing help, but occasionally you may also feel frustration. Overall, though, it can be rewarding working with a non-profit.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about Christmas Connection?
A: At this time of year, our biggest event is Christmas Connection. Christmas Connection is actually a partnership with the Charles County Department of Social Services, the Children’s Aid Society and the South Potomac Church. The program provides new toys and gifts to children from infancy to age 17.
Q: How can the community get involved with this effort?
A: In order for this program to be a success, donations from the community are essential. So the first way the community can get involved is by donating items to the Christmas Connection drive. We have boxes available in approximately 40 different businesses in Charles County, primarily in the Waldorf and La Plata areas. New toy or gift items for children from infancy thru age 17 can be placed in these boxes. Donations can also be dropped off at the Children’s Aid Society during the week from 9:00am–4:30pm. We also accept monetary donations for this program that are used by staff to purchase gifts. Monetary donations may be bought directly to our office at 3000 Huntington Circle in Waldorf or mailed. In addition to donating items, people can also get involved as volunteers at the distribution in December. The volunteers assist the parents in shopping for their children, which provides a very rewarding interaction. Our distribution is December 17–19 at South Potomac Church. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Children’s Aid Society at 301-645-1561 and arrange to receive a volunteer form.
You can support Children’s Aid Society’s Christmas Connection by donating a toy at any of our Charles County branch locations.