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Third annual Adopt-a-Child program kicks off

By Susan Shinn
For the Salisbury Post

Beth McKeithan and her husband are expecting their first child in January. At the moment, however, McKeithan is more excited about the Adopt-a-Child program. Sponsored by Prevent Child Abuse Rowan, of which she’s executive director, this third-annual effort kicks off today.

This particular morning, McKeithan and Julie Freeze, forensic interview coordinator, are busy hanging tags on a Christmas tree in the lobby of the Terrie Hess House. Others will hang from a cardboard mantel. Some 60 boys and girls ages 1 to 17, who would otherwise receive no gifts this holiday season, are available for sponsorship.

All unwrapped gifts are due to the organization, located at 130 Woodson St., by Dec. 16, so that they may be wrapped and distributed in time for Christmas. The women have listed “wants” and “needs” on each gift tag, along with clothing sizes.

The needs are pretty basic,” Freeze says, “including clothes, winter coats, socks, underwear.”

For gifts children would want to receive, she reports, “This year, the boys are really into Pokemon and Avengers, and the girls are into Frozen, baby dolls and Barbies. We do have a good many teens, too. Teen girls are asking for bath and beauty products, make-up, and hair accessories. The teen boys want sports equipment.”

Panthers are a favorite team appearing on many tags.

Even the wants are needs,” Freeze adds. “A lot of children just really need clothes.”

McKeithan says the agency worked ahead of time, making note of families who may have a need at Christmastime, then calling and talking with those families.

We know these children won’t have a Christmas unless we help,” she says. “We’ve had some incredibly severe cases, plus not having a Christmas on top on that — we just can’t let that happen.”

McKeithan notes that abuse cases happen across all socioeconomic levels. “We get families we know can provide Christmas. They’re not all low-income families. Some of our children are now placed with foster families who can provide a Christmas, but some are in foster care with several other kids. We want to help them, so all the children in the family can have Christmas. And being in foster care at Christmas is not easy.”

McKeithan says that College Barbecue and South Main Bookstore have already taken some tags. The Forum is also a huge supporter of PCAR and of this program, she adds.

We had such an overwhelming response last year,” she says. “We had groups, churches and families who helped.”

Other organizations, Freeze says, donate toys and other needed items to the center at Christmastime to use throughout the year.

Staff will deliver gifts the week of Dec. 19.

If we can do something to make these kids a little happier and feel better,” McKeithan says, “that’s our goal. I wish we could give the gift of pure security. But we do want to help take their minds off what’s going on in their lives.”

As McKeithan and Freeze work with families, they do see improvement with these children — also their goal.

We’ve had families tell us, ‘Thank you for giving us our child back,’” McKeithan says. “We are super grateful to the community for helping us. This is not something we can do alone. We need the community’s help.”

For more information about the Adopt-a-Child program at Prevent Child Abuse Rowan, please call 704-639-1700 or visit the agency’s facebook page.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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