FWBHS Christmas Connections Helps Local Families

Fort Walton Beach High School’s Christmas Connections culminated on December 20th when Leadership students, as well as Stars Dance team members, converged on Wal-Mart to buy presents for over 300 children in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton Counties. 

After buying the gifts for the children, the students returned to the school, wrapped everything, and then loaded their cars and trucks with decorated boxes of food, toys, bikes, trees, and turkeys or hams to deliver to their families.  

“This year, the Vikings have reached even farther than ever because the need is so great,” said program director, Barbara Britt.  “We have families from all over the panhandle calling not for gifts but for food and utilities.  We now have a waiting list for families and have officially closed our program, however if we lose a family then we will replace them with another on our list.  This year, we are providing for 118 families and 322 children.  I have never seen the need be so complete as it is this year and I have never seen such generosity from our community and surrounding areas.”

Sarah Slise and Angela Roy, seniors at FWBHS, have served as the student coordinators for the Christmas Connection and were busy directing students with last minute details at Wal-Mart; however, they took a minute to describe the overall process.

“We have stayed after school for numerous days and we have had meetings with all of the guidance counselors in the county and talked to the Chambers of Commerce,” said Slise. “We have collected canned foods from both our school, all over the community, and from schools surrounding us. We have gone out and collected sponsors and donations.”

“All of the children get a bike and $100 worth of gifts,” said Slise. “We do fourteen days’ worth of food for every family and we also include a holiday dinner.”

Christmas Connections provides each family with three meals a day, Christmas dinner, Christmas presents for the children, utilities when possible, rent, staples (milk, eggs, butter, bread) and any other necessities.

“We receive our families from cross-county Guidance Counselors, who send us all the contact information on the family, and also families from Youth Counts and Head Start,” said Britt. 

“What we do after the guidance counselors send us our families, is we break up into individual groups and actually go into the homes of the families and interview the family to see exactly what their dire needs are,” said Roy.

Students have gone out into the community and supplied furniture, bedding, sheets, blankets and anything else necessary for the children to be cared for.  They do a canned food drive within Fort Walton Beach High School, feeder schools, and other schools in the county.

Area restaurants like Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Fire at Gulf Place ran also helped out this year with all proceeds from fundraisers going to FWB Christmas Connection. Businesses have also supported the program by taking boxes to help in gathering food. 

“We would not be able to do what we do without the community and the schools in Okaloosa County helping us with our food drive,” said Roy. “So we really need to give credit to the community, the businesses that sponsored us, and the schools that helped us collect food.”

Britt echoed Roy’s sentiment.

“We could not provide for everyone if it were not for the support of our teachers who provide hams and turkey, clubs who provide bikes, students bringing in non-perishable food, and our community who makes it possible with financial help, nights out to eat, and activities to participate in during Christmas,” said Britt.  “Vikings believe in the spirit of the Holidays. One person helps to make like brighter and hopeful for our children.”

For more information on Christmas Connection, please call Barbara Britt at 850-833-3300 ext. 1811 or email brittb@mail.okaloosa.k12.fl.us.

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