It will be months before we see fir trees covered in tinsel or hear "Frosty the Snowman" on the radio, but it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas for homeless children and teenagers in Broward County.
The county's two Kiwanis Club Divisions and Broward government are teaming up once again for "Christmas In July." The campaign and event -- now in their 18th year -- benefit homeless children and help them prepare for the upcoming school year.
Broward County officials say the number of homeless children in the county's school system reached 4,479 this year, the highest number ever.
The campaign is asking for donations of new items for children newborn to 19 years old (see items list below).
"We try to give them new items because a lot of these kids have never received anything new," says Yvonne Honaker, one of Christmas in July's committee members. She recounts how, at last year's event, she spotted a teenage boy sitting alone, clutching his new shoes and crying.
"He said those were the first pair of new shoes he had ever owned," says Honaker.
The kids need supplies in advance of the upcoming school year. And one especially prized item on the wish list is jeans, since they can be worn year-round. Also, since jeans don't need regular washing, they're a good clothing option for many families who don't have access to laundry facilities.
The collection drive ends on June 28, but the exact date and location of July's day of gift-giving is not being publicized for a poignant reason: the organizers of "Christmas in July" say women and children victims of domestic violence are among those receiving gifts and services -- and the details of the celebration need to remain undisclosed for their protection.
Broward County and Kiwanis Divisions 23 and 24
"Christmas In July" Drive to benefit homeless children and teenagers.
Items needed are:
• School supplies
• Shoes and socks
• Diapers/wipes/baby clothing
Collection boxes are located at all Broward County Libraries through Friday, June 28th. To find the nearest branch library, please visit Broward.org/library.
In addition to libraries, collection boxes are located at the following Broward County facilities:
• Downtown Governmental Center, 115 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale
• Government Center West, 1 N. University Drive, Plantation
• Animal Care and Adoption, 2400 SW 42nd Street, Fort Lauderdale
• Elderly and Veterans Services, 2995 North Dixie Highway, Oakland Park
• Nancy J. Cotterman Center, 400 NE 4th Street, Fort Lauderdale
• Parks and Recreation Division, 950 NW 38th Street, Oakland Park
• Main Courthouse, 201 S.E. Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale
• North Regional County Courthouse, 1600 W. Hillsboro Blvd., Deerfield Beach
• South Regional County Courthouse, 3550 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
• West Regional County Courthouse, 100 N. Pine Island Road, Plantation
• Traffic Engineering Division, 2300 W. Commercial Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale
• Water and Wastewater Services, 2555 W. Copans Road, Pompano Beach
• Port Everglades, 1850 Eller Drive, Fort Lauderdale
• Aviation Department, 2200 S.W. 45th St., Dania Beach
Monetary donations can also be made on the Christmas In July website.