A small Oceanside charity provides an opportunity for low-income families to get extra help during the holiday season. Cheryl and Chris Cote started Oceanside Christmas Wishes five years ago.
“We wanted to do something really nice for our community and we came up with the idea of taking on a few sponsor families and seeing what we could get from our local moms group,” Cheryl said. “It went off really well the first year and then we just kept on going with it.”
Last year the couple created a Facebook page to help gather donations. “We always kept it offline so that it could stay kinda quiet,” she said.
After families are nominated in a local Facebook group for moms, ‘the couple conducts a “home check” to ensure they are truly in need, according to Cheryl. Then the family creates a Christmas list, including gifts and essentials.
“This year we have one family that had no heat in their home and they also had no working stove. We reached out to our contacts — we now have them a brand new fridge and stove coming and we have an electrical company, On Line Electric, is doing new heat in their home to make sure they are warm,” Cheryl said.
COVID-19 has changed the way they operate — Chris normally visits families’ houses as Santa Clause to distract the kids while Cheryl gave the families boxes of gifts. The couple live streams on their Facebook page as Santa and Mrs. Clause while they read letters to Santa. Cheryl said Santa will still go to families’ homes this year, but he will have to stay outside because of COVID-19 regulations.
The organization pays for the participating families’ Christmas dinner and gathers and wraps gifts for the children. Everything the organization gives to families comes from donations.
“Our community is absolutely fantastic, the amount of stuff they donate to us is amazing,” Cheryl said. Many contributors have bought donations from Amazon and sent them directly to the couple’s house this year, she said.