CORE Blesses Families In Need At Christmas

CORE Blesses Families In Need At Christmas

On December 8th, Cary McKee was at his office in CORE’s Branson Recovery Center when he received a telephone call.  The breathless voice at the other end sounded urgent, “We’ve got it all set up!  Cary, come and see; come look at it!

Nothing at CORE happens in a vacuum.  Cary was well aware that many of our CORE clients had been volunteering their time over at the Hollister School District.  They were making ready for an important Christmas Blessing event.  Since 2020, this event has been an annual effort to help people in need during the Christmas season.  The Hollister School District and CORE collaborate together to make this happen.

When Cary arrived to the school district, he had high hopes.  Moreover, “when I opened that door and crossed the threshold, I was blown away,” he told us.  What lay before Cary was the final product – the culmination of months of work by people connected to the school district and CORE, along with so many donations and contributions by area retailers and donors.

The previous events had been confined to a single classroom.  This year, the school district opened up an entire annex, the Tiger Pod, which was bursting with inventory.  Four classrooms, a central foyer, and main hallway were packed to the brim with housewares, toys, and so many items that families need and want.  As evidence of this abundance, we took some pictures.  The Reader should keep in mind, however, that our photos were taken after the event was in full swing, and choice areas already had been picked through!

By meeting the practical needs of children and families, the annual Christmas Blessing is ultimately intended to convey the gift of hope.  Inflation hit hard this year.  Families have had to tighten up their finances.  As Cary explained, “This may mean less for the children and nothing for parents.  Through our partnership with the Hollister School District, we’re able to enhance the holiday for the children, and for moms and dads, too.”  Over 250 students, their families, and others participated – completely free of charge. 

It’s an awesome event!  But someone may ask, how does an event of this magnitude even get started?  How did CORE, a recovery provider, become involved?  And what does the future hold?

CORE has had relationships with local retailers in Branson and Springfield for awhile now.  They have been doing their part to promote our mission of providing recovery services.  By 2019, however, it became apparent that their collective generosity could well benefit local families in need.  In fact, CORE was planning a community event to make these items available to the public when the pandemic hit.  The shutdowns, social distancing, and limitations on public spaces made this event impossible.  

Despite the pandemic, Cary was undeterred.  CORE still had a warehouse full of goods, and people were in real need.  Then came a lightbulb moment.  His children attended Hollister schools, and he remembered that the school district solicited applications from families for holiday assistance at Christmastime.  He called the superintendent of the school district, Dr. Brian Wilson.  Out of this initial call, the first Christmas Blessing room became reality in 2020, and again last year in 2021.  

Since last year’s Christmas Blessing event, CORE’s staff and clients have devoted countless hours to making 2022 the best yet.  As our Operations Manager, Gary Osborn, explained:

As soon as last year’s event was over, we immediately started collecting for this year.  We would go to about four or five different stores in Springfield and Branson every week, and we continued collecting donations every week for the next twelve months, right up to this year’s event.  It took a lot of days, with a lot of CORE volunteers, doing pick ups, and at our storage facility sorting, organizing, marking off bar codes, testing – that sort of thing, essentially going through what would be used at Christmas this year.

On the school district’s side, mobilization for this event began in earnest all the way back in October.  The school district’s holiday assistance program long predates its collaboration with CORE.  The program’s coordinator, Sandy Brown, MS Counselor, told us that it’s all about the children’s education, “When the kids get the help they need at home, they come to school better prepared to learn.”  

The school counselors took the lead on this project for the school district, which was a significant undertaking.  It involved coordination between the school district’s administrators, teachers, volunteers, donors, and families receiving assistance.  The counselors spent many late nights assuring that everything in the rooms was just right and the event would run smoothly.  Sandy even shared that, when families arrived, “the school district will have volunteers, people who shop with them and help them out.  This year is so overwhelming with so much and so many rooms.”

While the Christmas Blessing event promotes the school district’s goal of providing quality education, it also furthers CORE’s mission as a substance abuse recovery provider.  This project is one of many throughout the year created by CORE that affords clients with opportunities to express their gratitude through service.  “As addicts, we leaned on the government and on our communities,” Cary said.  “And now all of a sudden we become assets.  We’re taxpayers.  We start giving back through service.  Making amends to our communities means something to us today.”  

Cary also hopes that the Christmas Blessing event may help break down economic barriers and provide children “a spark of hope that allows them to look at life through a different colored lens.”

As soon as the event was underway, CORE’s principals began to turn their thoughts to the future.  As an example, Brandi Blom, who manages our ReStores, said “If we continue to have an overabundance, we may be able to push our outreach to others.  That would be awesome.”  Cary agreed, saying that he was so impressed by the outpouring of support for this endeavor, that “we’ll look to expand our Christmas Blessing donations to multiple other school districts and see if we can bless many more children and families in the process.”  

Cary expressed his thanks for Dr. Wilson and all of the Hollister School District’s administrators, staff, donors, and volunteers who participated in this event.  He also spoke warmly of CORE’s donors, staff, and clients.  He said that their generous support and tireless efforts made a real difference in the lives of many this Christmas season!