The GRACE Christmas Cottage has been giving and growing since 2001 — in size, volume and people served. What began as an organized effort to distribute toys to local children has developed into a well-orchestrated program of providing holiday gifts to entire families. Now in its 11th year, the Christmas Cottage is open December 7-20 at 2845 Exchange Blvd, suite 300, in Southlake. Supporters are asked to bring new and unwrapped toys and gifts for children and teens; small appliances and gift cards for parents; wrapping paper, tape and bows; and batteries beginning Monday, November 26, between 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
What was a huge empty warehouse has been transformed into what resembles Santa’s toy shop with festive décor, trees, wreaths and lights. Donated toys and gifts are organized by sex and age groups to aid shoppers. To participate, families must be qualified by GRACE and make an appointment to visit the Christmas Cottage.
According to Shonda Schaeffer, executive director for Grapevine Relief and Community Exchange (GRACE), the Christmas Cottage is designed to be a one-stop shop for families facing financial challenges, noting the store-like setting allows the parents to have a sense of dignity and pride as they select the perfect gifts for each child.
“We’re thrilled with our volunteer and donor support for the Christmas Cottage,” said Schaefer. “However, we are concerned because we are reaching about 400 more kids than last year. We’re looking to the community to step in and help with more donations.”
GRACE is expecting the Christmas Cottage to provide a happy holiday to more than 600 families with more than 1,600 children who live in the Grapevine, Colleyville and Southlake area. “We are asking even more this year from our community to help fill this need,” Schaefer continued.
To assist those wishing to make donations, GRACE has compiled a list of gift ideas for children, teenagers, and adults/families that includes items in all price ranges.
Just as important as toys are the volunteers who organize, decorate, stock, clean up and assist customers during the 14-day run. Spanish-speaking volunteers are very important to make sure all families’ needs are met. Anyone wishing to work at the Christmas Cottage should contact Lori Stevens at 817-488-2181 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Christmas experience is not complete without cookies which is why the Christmas Cottage needs six dozen cookies a day to hand out to visitors. If you would like to donate baked cookies, please contact Lori Stevens at 817-488-2181 or email@example.com
For more information about the GRACE Christmas Cottage, go to www.gracegrapevine.orgor call 817-488-7009.
Known as the ‘black tie event of the year’ in Northeast Tarrant County, the 9th Annual GRACE Gala will be held October 13 in the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas. With gourmet foods, fine wines, live entertainment, a car giveaway, and live and silent auctions, the glamorous affair promises a good time, but it has a serious purpose: to raise substantial funds for the non-profit relief agency’s programs and services during the coming year.
According to Shonda Schaeffer, executive director for GRACE, this year’s event is more critical due to an increase in demand for services.
“We are seeing a 10 percent increase of people knocking on our door and we’re worried about general support of children throughout the year, especially with the holidays coming up,” Schaeffer said, noting GRACE handed out back-to-school supplies to 1,000 students this year, compared to 650 in 2011.
As the largest fundraiser for Grapevine Relief and Community Exchange (GRACE), the annual gala is an opportunity to showcase the organization’s success stories, honor volunteers, and celebrate with supporters. Since its inception in 2004, the GRACE Gala has raised more than $2.2 million in total net proceeds. These funds are used to uphold GRACE’s mission to help those in need with more than a just a hand-out, but a hand up toward self-sufficiency. In 2011 alone, GRACE distributed more than $1.6 million worth of goods and services to meet the needs of families in Grapevine, Colleyville and Southlake.
The proceeds from this year’s Gala also will be used to administer a new program called Faith, which is aimed at helping families who are dependent on GRACE’s services on an ongoing basis. The money is needed to supplement a $125,000 federal grant GRACE received for the program.
“This program is focused on teaching long-term self sufficiency versus providing short-term emergency assistance. We want people not to need us every month,” explains Schaeffer.
Schaeffer, along with a planning committee of more than 30 people, hopes to raise several hundred thousand dollars at the Gala through a combination of event ticket sales ($250 each), corporate sponsorships, auction items, and raffle tickets for a 2012 Chevy Silverado or Camaro convertible provided by this year’s title sponsor: The Thompson Group, Classic Chevrolet in Grapevine. Raffle tickets are $100 each or three for $200 and may be purchased online. The winner’s name will be drawn during the Gala (do not have to be present to win).
One of the most popular features of the Gala is the silent auction which offers a broad assortment of luxury items including jewelry, artwork, sports memorabilia, and travel packages. Some of the items in this year’s silent auction include:
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, a commemorative video highlighting GRACE’s contributions to the local communities will be shown during dinner with testimonials from the mayors of Colleyville, Grapevine and Southlake.
For more information or to make a reservation for the 2012 GRACE Gala, go to www.gracegala.org or call 817-305-4654.