PANAMA CITY, Fla. —
The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the paradigm in our lives this year, but the show must go on, including the Children’s Christmas Party Committee’s (CCPC) efforts to spread joy this holiday season.
Since 1950, the CCPC, composed of several volunteers from the local Navy Lab and retirees, has held the annual Children’s Christmas Party as a way to reach out to community children in need, provide necessities, and offer holiday cheer.
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic including the restriction of social events and gatherings, the physical party is cancelled. However, this has not stopped the committee’s drive and selflessness of giving back to the community.
“The biggest heartbreak for our kids is the party being cancelled. No Santa, no Santa’s Helper, no magic show, no lunch, no presents or stockings,” said Jodi Hendrix, CCPC chair. “We just cannot have it this year and risk the safety of our kids and the volunteers.”
Instead, the committee has raised funds to provide gift cards to the students and families to provide essential items such as groceries, clothing, shoes, and toiletries. The CCPC is a 501(c) nonprofit organization who conducts fundraisers and accepts donations to fulfill these children’s Christmas wishes. Because of the pandemic, traditional fundraising efforts have been sparse this year. However, donors have shown up in large numbers to meet the need and spread the love for the Christmas season. In fact, a local restaurant recently hosted a Turkey Bowling event, contributing a portion of proceeds to the committee’s efforts.
Roxane Batyski, CCPC assistant treasurer, is grateful for the support from the donors to ensure the children’s needs will be met this holiday season.
“I think it’s wonderful that we have people that reach out to us, year after year. We definitely haven’t been able to do our normal fundraising events, yet here we are, receiving donations,” said Batyski. “It’s really amazing that people are reaching out to us and asking how they can help.”
Hendrix said the resiliency of our community and CCPC volunteers has kept the Christmas spirit alive.
“What a year this has been and all while still recovering from 2018’s Category 5 Hurricane Michael,” said Hendrix. “I must admit that the faith of our CCPC volunteers has kept this group going. We are postponed for now, but will be back next year!”
Batyski echoed Hendrix’s sentiment.
“Both Hurricane Michael and COVID-19 have hit our community hard, and I believe the parents appreciate a little help as so many people have been impacted by a job loss,” said Batyski. “My son didn’t understand the concept of the party when he was little and we’d run around and buy presents. He would tell me ‘Santa brings presents momma, it’s OK.’ I told him ‘Moms and Dads like to give presents to their children too, so that is who we are helping.’”