OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It’s been a holiday tradition in Oklahoma City for two decades and the pandemic didn’t stand in its way this year.
“We are just trying to spread a lot of Christmas cheer and give back to the community,” said Sheryl Presley, with the Oklahoma City Police Department.
For the 22nd year, the Oklahoma City Police Department, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department, and Sunbeam Family Services teamed up to make the holidays a little happier for grandparents raising their grandkids.
“As we are aging, we don’t anticipate raising children again. So grandparents often find themselves in situations unprepared to take on the children, but they do so with gracious and loving hearts,” said Deputy Tara Hardin, of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department.
On Saturday morning, organizers put together gift packages for the 219 families and 567 children helped at the event. Officials say Oklahoma is consistently in the top 10 in the country when it comes to grandparents raising their grandkids.
“A lot of the grandparents are living on Social Security benefits, maybe $750 a month. When you think of your own expenses, and what you pay a month after you take out rent, utilities and food and transportation, there is not a lot left,” said Angie Doss, of Sunbeam Family Services.
All the gifts came from private donations including hand knitted hats and stockings. Some kids were lucky enough to get a new bicycle. All got gift cards, so grandparents can get the exact gift on that kiddo’s Christmas list.
Normally, the event would be indoors, but with the pandemic, the Grinch was outside greeting cars for the drive-in gift giving.
“It’s a lot safer for the grandparents and the children,” said Presley.
“They have blessed us from day one,” said Annette Barber.
The 80-year-old is raising her 8-year-old, special needs, great-grandchild. It’s her second year coming to the event. She says the gifts are nice around the holidays, but the help that Sunbeam gives year-round is priceless.
“They help us and if they don’t know, they find the resource and call me and let me know,” said Barber.
“The financial need is there. The emotional support need is there. So this is just a great event that we can reach out and help those people in the community that find themselves raising their grandchildren,” said Hardin.
Sunbeam actually offers services to grandparents year-round. Right now, every dollar donated to help will be matched by the McLaughlin Family Foundation.
For more information, visit Sunbeam’s website to learn how you can help.