A beautiful Christmas tree can bring so much joy to children and their loved ones during the holidays.
This year, 12 families received special trees donated by the Coral Gables Fire Department and the Coral Gables Community Foundation.
The free trees were delivered to deserving families on Dec. 3 in the areas known as Golden Gate and MacFarlane Homestead Historic District, where Bahamian workers originally settled in the area.
The trees were donated by the Fire Fighters Christmas Tree Lot on Granada Boulevard and U.S. 1 and were delivered using the Coral Gables Fire Department Vintage Fire Truck.
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“We are part of the community and this is our effort to give back to this historic neighborhood by providing a little holiday cheer to the families in the area,” Coral Gables Deputy Fire Chief Marcos de la Rosa said in email.
The deliveries started from St. Mary’s Missionary Baptist Church on Frow Avenue in Coral Gables near Coconut Grove. Some of the homes of the early residents who helped construct George Merrick’s dream city are still standing today.
BRIDGE FOR HOMELESS YOUTH
For 30 years, Miami Bridge Youth & Family Services has provided a safe place for at-risk children and teens who have nowhere else to go, often in the middle of the night. It is the only 24-hour emergency shelter for homeless kids ages 10-17.
The youngsters are often trying to escape crime, abuse, violence and drug addiction. At The Bridge, they are stabilized and taught coping skills, Miami Bridge CEO Dorcas Wilcox said in a release.
“We just want to give kids a chance to be kids,” Wilcox said. “No adult stress. No adult responsibilities. No adult drama. Just kids.”
The Bridge recently celebrated its 30th anniversary with a reception attended by board members, friends and supporters. The group also heard testimonials from some of the teens temporarily staying at the shelter.
Kids can spend weeks at the shelter with mental-health professionals helping them through crisis. Many have been locked out of their homes, run away or have been discharged from state care. The Bridge is also helpful for parents who need advice when their children are threatening to run away.
Homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical and sexual assault, abuse and illness. Each year, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, an estimated 5,000 unaccompanied youth die as a result of assault, illness or suicide. They also are at a higher risk of “depression and post-traumatic stress disorders due to exposure to violence.”
“Miami Bridge succeeds because the community believes in its vital mission,” Wilcox said. “We want the community to join us, not only to celebrate our past, but to help look ahead to providing more help and hope to young people who need it most.”
Miami Bridge’s mission began in 1975. In 1985, it moved into its current residence in the heart of Miami and eventually opened a second location in Homestead.
Miami Bridge shelters more than 550 youth and counsels more than 550 families each year.
TOY DRIVE FOR KIDS
More than 2,500 children had their holiday wishes granted when Amigos For Kids and Ford Motor Company held a huge toy drive.
This was the eighth year the two groups have collaborated on the gift-giving effort. Amigos For Kids, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect, marked its 24th annual holiday toy drive this year.
The program begins in September when underprivileged children begin making their individual “Holiday Wish Lists.”
Toy distribution started Dec. 13 with a daylong caravan featuring Santa Claus, local celebrities, community leaders and volunteers making stops in Florida City and Little Havana. The toy distribution continued in Broward the next day, and throughout the rest of the week, to make sure all the children received their gifts before Christmas.
“Amigos For Kids is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect with various programs throughout the year,” Rosa Maria Plasencia, president and CEO of Amigos For Kids, said in a release. “The annual Holiday Toy Drive is very special for us being that this was the organization’s first major event in 1992. Every year, we see the best from our community when they grant children’s heartfelt wishes such as dinner with the family, tickets to sporting events, Christmas trees and much more. Thanks to our presenting sponsor Ford Motor Company and donors, we were able to bring the spirit of the holidays to the neediest in our community by making wishes come true and raising awareness about a national epidemic.”
Every year, more than 200 Amigos volunteers join the effort to collect, organize and distribute the toys to kids from organizations that included Amigos Strengthens Families and Communities Program, Branches of Love, Coordinated Victim Assistance Center, Department of Children and Families, Families & Communities Empowered for Success, Family Resource Center, The Lodge in Miami-Dade and Westwood Elementary in Broward.
Santa’s helpers this year included Ana Maria Canseco, Ximena Cordoba, Andrea Escalona, Boris Izaguirre, Carmen Jara and Felipe Viel.
“Ford Motor Company Fund is committed to helping communities in need and supporting the Amigos For Kids Annual Holiday Toy Drive. What a great opportunity to give back and spread goodwill throughout the season,” said Joe Avila, community relations manager of Ford Motor Company Fund, in a release. “We look forward to sharing holiday cheer with children that need it the most.”
To learn more about how to help visit https://amigosforkids.org/ To make a difference in a child’s life though your simple generosity, become an Amigo by clicking “Volunteer” on the site. You can help save a child’s future and enrich your own life in a way you can’t even imagine.
If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at firstname.lastname@example.org.