Hundreds benefit from Christmas for Kids

Hundreds benefit from Christmas for Kids

EUGENE, Ore. -- At the Christmas for Kids celebration in Eugene, the Peterson family got an extra holiday hand from Santa's little helpers.

"We're really crunched on our bills right now," said Traci Peterson of Eugene. "[Without this] Christmas would have been really small."

The Peterson family is just one of dozens of families that attended the 15th annual Christmas for Kids breakfast and gift-giving. By the time the party came to an end, Traci and her husband Roger left with enough presents for their six children.

"We had someone steal $500 from our wallet and so we're really short this year," said Roger. "It can get really hard around the holidays with the kids on top of everything else."

The Peterson family is not alone.

According to September Census data, an increasing number of families are struggling to make ends meet. Lane County's Human Services Commission serves more than 82,000 needy people each year. The Human Services Commission defines a needy family as a family of four that lives on an income of less than $21,954.

In Oregon, 534,594 people meet this requirement. In Lane County, the number of children in poverty has risen to 15.6 percent. That's up from 14.7 percent in 2008.

Amy Newport is the founder of Christmas for Kids, and she says she is seeing more families come to the annual event because many people are out of work.

"We've seen a whole new face of people who come here," said Newport. "Some people who never thought they'd be in this situation."

Serving the growing number of needy families and underprivileged children is what motivates Newport and more than 200 volunteers that collect gifts and clothing throughout the year.

This year Christmas for Kids has provided toys for 400 children in Lane County.

"Every year we get more friends and businesses to get involved," said Newport. "It's really just worth it to know you're helping a family out and bringing a smile to that child's face on Christmas morning."