UTAH (ABC4) – According to Deloitte’s annual holiday retail forecast, nearly 12 percent of American holiday shoppers don’t plan on spending any money this year.
This is more than double the number of Americans who said the same thing last year. To help ease the financial burden Christmas can bring, around 100 Christmas trees are scattered across northern Utah. More than 2,000 children will receive gifts and their parents will be given tools to help them get back on their feet.
The ringing of a bell welcomes a new hour at Weber State University. However, as cold weather creeps in the chimes of the bell seem to welcome the Christmas spirit to campus as well.
“This is the largest number we have done, and we actually had to cut off our registration early this year because we filled it so quickly,” “Community Christmas” Event Coordinator Tami McBride told ABC4. McBride helps put on the annual Community Christmas event which is put on by Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership and the Ogden School District. McBride explained that this year’s large turnout will mean helping more than 600 families from Davis, Weber, and Box Elder Counties.
It all starts with 100 giving trees, like the one decorated in school colors in the Sheperd Union at Weber State University. McBride said, “People are able to come and take the tags off of the tree (pointing at the WSU giving tree) and it has suggestions for donations that they can bring back.”
Deloitte’s forecast is based on its 2021 Deloitte Holiday Retail Survey and predicts that overall, holiday spending will rise this year from seven to nine percent. However, it says that rise is heavily influenced by high-income shoppers who are expected to spend 15 percent more this year, while lower-income shoppers are expected to spend 22 percent less.
This may be part of the reason Community Christmas is seeing an increased demand this year. McBride said this is the first time they have ever closed registration early. All spots filled in less than a month. She said that turned out to be more than 30 families signing up daily. Closing registration, she said, was heartbreaking.
“It’s really special because it is Christmas,” Kary Makela told ABC4. Makela is a student at WSU and is part of the WSU community engagement team. The team helps decorate and maintain the giving tree at the Sheperd Union as well as a second tree at WSU’s Layton campus. Along with that, the team helps find volunteers for the upcoming Community Christmas event.
When it comes down to it, making sure kids get Christmas presents is why students like Kary Makela are volunteering. She stated: “It’s for Weber County. It’s for Davis County. It’s for the community (and) families that we work with… and we get to see every day.”
The goal is to get at least two toys and a winter outfit for more than 2,000 kids. To qualify, families can’t be getting help from other organizations, like Toys for Tots, parents must take a life skills course, and at the beginning of the event, parents will take part in a services and resource fair.
There is no income limit for families to qualify. McBride explained to ABC4 that the organization wants to make sure they can catch all families as they fall. She gave an example and said many families are experiencing unexpected medical bills. While they may not normally qualify for other types of assistance due to their income, they may still be struggling to make ends meet.
According to McBride, all donations will be taken to Ben Lomond High School in Ogden. On December 11, kids will have a carnival at the school and a store will be set up “where parents are able to shop for their kids for Christmas.”
She said this about helping families gain some footing during tough times, and it’s a gift that keeps on giving. “Last year we had several families come,” she added. “And as I talked to them, they said, ‘We are here because we got help several years ago and now our lives are better, and we’re in a position where we can help others.’ And that’s the most rewarding thing.”
McBride said event organizers are looking at how to expand their services and the logistics of the event in order to increase the number of children they can help in the coming years.